Lest you think the story about a farting boy was the low point of my internet browsing today, think again, there’s a report going round that the off-cuts from circumcision procedures in hospitals around the world (the foreskins – hey, it’s in the Bible so it’s ok to mention here) are being sold for hundreds of dollars a pop to help develop moisturiser. Fancy that? Fancy that! Fancy, that. Three appropriate responses.
The Stir’s Christie Haskell dug deep into the largely hidden industry of baby foreskins. An infant’s foreskin has special cell properties, similar to those found in stem cells. Their versatility means that they can be used to cultivate skin cells.
Because of this, they’re not tossed out with the rest of the medical waste after a birth. Instead, hospitals sell them to companies and institutions for a wide variety of uses. Companies will pay thousands of dollars for a single foreskin.
Some of the strangest purposes they’re put to:
- Cosmetics: Foreskins are used to make high-end skin creams. The skin products contain fibroblasts grown on the foreskin and harvested from it. One foreskin can be used for decades to produce fancy face cream like the SkinMedica products hawked on Oprah.
- Skin grafts: In addition to making products for skin, a baby’s foreskin can be turned into a skin graft for a burn victim. Because the cells are extremely flexible, they’re less likely to be rejected. Currently, this technology can be lifesaving in providing a real skin “band aid” to cover an open wound while a burn victim heals. Researchers at Harvard and Tufts are working on advanced skin replacements that use human foreskins.
- Cosmetic testing: All those cruelty-free cosmetics you buy? Some of them are tested on foreskins. This yields better results, since they’re human skin. And it saves the lives of the rodents your shampoo would otherwise be tested on.