Deemed an unnecessary medical procedure by some, considered a momentous rite of passage by others and called out as a barbaric mutilation by even more - there is no denying the cloud of controversy that hovers over the act of circumcision.
While the procedure has ancient roots (going back about 5000 years) it is only since the 1800s that health and medical professionals have recognized the extraordinary healing properties contained within foreskin. Seemingly insignificant, these discarded skin flaps are composed of a wealth of cells and tissue capable of breaking down barriers in medicine advancement.
Consisting of natural growth agents as well as matrix proteins, infant foreskin cells are renowned for their regenerative and healing qualities. And this isn’t the sole reason they are favored by research labs either. A little known fact is that one meagre foreskin contains enough genetic material to grow 250,000 square feet of new skin.
As long as circumcisions remain a popular procedure, foreskin sales will continue to be a million dollar business. Many companies are clambering to pay top dollar for something once considered to be little more than medical waste.
No matter the foreskin viewpoint held - whether people love it, hate it or are indifferent to this piece of skin, there are a number of strange and curious uses for it. Read through this list of 15 shocking uses for infant foreskin and prepare to be amazed (point #6) , intrigued (point #8) and downright disgusted (point #3) .
15 Diabetic Antidote
Whether a person is pro-circumcision or vehemently against the practice, one thing is certain - diabetes research has gotten a boost from all those discarded baby foreskins. As a matter of fact, the foreskins are rarely just tossed away. Often, they are sold to various biomedical companies where they are used in various research trials and have been credited with making leaps and bounds within certain areas of scientific analysis. Aiding in the advance of insulin development is just one facet where these seemingly insignificant flaps of skin have helped science move forward.
In a nutshell, scientists have managed to extract skin cells from snipped foreskin and reprogram these cells in order to have insulin-producing capabilities. Because this research is still being perfected, the newly altered cells have not yet been tested on humans. Though they have proficiently produced insulin within the confines of a petri dish in a lab and have even been implanted within mice where they have prevented the rodents from developing diabetes.
14 False Sense Of Security
Considered cannibalistic by some and gross by others, there is a third school of thought concerning the act of eating severed foreskin and it may be the most alarming. In some parts of the world, men believe that consuming their own foreskins or the foreskins of infants will provide them with a safeguard against venereal disease. Generally, the skin is burned to ashes and then mixed with herbs. The concoction is then consumed with the notion that it will provide a cure or immunity.
Even in present day society, people in some areas of Africa, India and Thailand believe that HIV, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases are a result of evil spirits and can be cured or prevented by a number of bizarre and even criminal practices bordering on witchcraft.
Consuming foreskin is the so-called tip of the iceberg with some of these strange ideas. Other commonly believed yet clearly false miracle cures include undergoing oxygen therapy, an electronic zapping procedure and the more disturbing idea of having sex with a virgin.
13 A Noble Cause
Despite the constantly swirling controversy surrounding circumcision, there is inarguably a lot of scientific benefits arising from sliced foreskin. Testing performed on cells and tissue taken from this skin are being used to further cancer research - it doesn’t get much nobler than that.
Cells extracted from infant foreskin are often ideal for life or death research studies as the skin is new and typically performs well under lab conditions. Oftentimes, similar research conducted on skin from adults will not yield the same effective results. And because it is rare that a baby or young child’s body is donated for medical research, it only makes sense that infant foreskin be repurposed in the name of science.
Since scientists are capable of producing 10 million cells from a single baby foreskin, not many samples are required in order to make headway in various areas of scientific study. While definitely contributing toward scientific breakthroughs in cancer research, these cells also work well for studies focussed in areas like pigmentation disorders and allergic reactions as well.
12 Lather, Rinse, Repeat
The cells contained in infant foreskin are famous for their regenerative properties. Because these cells encourage regrowth and renewed strength, it comes as no surprise that they are often a hidden ingredient in certain shampoos and hair conditioners. Many of these products guarantee to rejuvenate hair that is weak, repair locks that are damaged and supply tresses with an energetic boost where needed. And since foreskin cells are involved, these claims may be somewhat credible.
Over the years, hair products have been no stranger to exotic, weird and downright disgusting ingredients. Some of the more bizarre additives have included:
- Sperm oil - Oil retrieved from the sperm whale's head cavity.
- Fish scales - Sometimes found in nail polish as well, scales provide the product they are enhancing with a shimmery appearance.
- Bull semen - This protein-enriched substance is said to work miracles in providing hair with added body and shine.
- Animal placenta - Another questionable ingredient said to be a marvel in growing longer and stronger hair.
- Formaldehyde - Since this is a known carcinogen, recently enforced health codes have clamped down on its usage but in some instances, formaldehyde-releasing preservatives are still found in certain shampoos - even shampoo meant for babies!
11 A Skin Bandage, Literally
No worries about having to rip this bandaid off in one fall swoop. Instead, it sort of melts directly into the wound while simultaneously healing it. Once again - all courtesy of the paltry piece of skin covering the penis.
Keep in mind, it’s not as if doctors are simply taking baby foreskins, stitching them together and using them as a bandaid. The technology is a bit more complex and advanced.
In the 1990s, a California based company called Advanced Tissue Sciences figured out how to take cells from discarded infant foreskin and use them to produce a skin overlay that can literally be draped over wounds. As a result, this second skin or basically giant skin-bandage adheres to the wound and produces biological elements in order to heal the lesion. Although, in some rare instances, the donor’s skin will reject this skin-bandage and as a result slough it off.
10 Sand, Soil And The Tree Of Life
In certain Jewish traditions, once foreskin is removed it must be covered by either sand or dirt. So it is not usual for new parents to include a dish full of soil as part of the bris or circumcision ceremony. Following the snip-snip, it can then be buried immediately.
The reasoning behind this tradition is up for some debate. Some feel it follows the belief of burying amputated limbs so that when a person dies, they will be reunited with any missing body parts in the afterlife. Another legend states that the sand and soil connection is related to the Jewish historical reference to wandering the desert for 40 years. Yet another school of thought believes that once the foreskin is buried, the baby’s namesake will be able to return to earth to live another life.
Sometimes, more planning is involved. Rather than new parents burying their infant’s foreskin willy-nilly, they will receive the skin piece in a sealed pouch from the mohel (who performs the bris) to plant under a tree, symbolizing the connection between all living beings, new life and growth.
9 The Gift Of Grafts
Baby foreskin may be viewed as a magical healing balm by many individuals suffering from severe burns or amputation. That is primarily because it is the perfect foundation for the development of skin grafts for a number of reasons. First off, it is easily procured since it is otherwise slated for disposal. And if placed on ice, infant foreskin can keep for up to two weeks’ time.
When creating a skin graft, infant foreskin often yields excellent results. Grafts are more likely to take to the recipient’s own skin when coming from infant skin or embryos as opposed to coming from an adult. In infant foreskin, doctors have discovered the ideal material where thin or delicate skin is required such as on the sole of a foot or over an amputation stump. As well, grafts created from foreskin rarely leave lasting scars.
There is some concern over blood compatibility between the foreskin donor as well as the skin graft recipient. Although, most health professionals are in agreement that if a skin graft is rejected, it would most likely occur whether there were compatibility issues or not.
8 Hello, Clarice
Walk into any costume shop in October and a person is bound to find a case full of expensive, yet realistic simulated skin. That’s because for some reason Halloween brings out the human craving for horrific yet realistic flesh-rotting pandemonium. People go all out to perfect their skin-dripping zombie makeup or to add a bit of disgusting realism to their fake injury costumes.
If for some strange reason, a person has access to discarded infant foreskins, they may very well have hit the Halloween jackpot! Who needs synthetic flesh if a person can actually have real, live infant foreskin hanging from their rotting jowls. For any bold film buffs out there, consider using the cache of snips to pay homage to one of the most cold and calculating fictional serial killers of all time - Hannibal Lecter.
Portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in the 1991 movie The Silence of the Lambs, one of the most pivotal scenes has him masterminding an escape from police custody by peeling the skin off the face of a dead man and placing it on top of his own. Imagine the horror yet awe inspired by a homemade Hannibal Lecter mask created by real, live foreskins.
7 Oprah's Crazy About It!
Imagine a group of high society ladies lounging in a salon with cucumber slices over their eyes and severed infant foreskins on their faces. Definitely silly and also not accurate. It is true that plenty of high end skin creams and lotions are manufactured thanks in part to these little scraps of discarded skin - but it’s not as if they are ground up and sprinkled into the product.
In reality, the creams have been bio-engineered using the original foreskin cells. One company, SkinMedica, extracts fibroblasts directly from the foreskin and uses them as a culture with which to produce so-called anti-aging miracle cream.
If unfamiliar with the term fibroblast, it refers to a connective tissue cell that aids with collagen production. The goal for skin creams containing fibroblasts is to temporarily replenish skin with a collagen-infusing boost that may result in a more youthful visage.
Not without controversy, SkinMedica are the makers of a litigious skin cream called TNS Essential Serum selling for $260 per ounce. Oprah Winfrey’s rave reviews of the stuff apparently caught the negative attention of an activist group against circumcision. Kerfuffle or not, Winfrey still lauds the cream as a veritable fountain of youth.
6 Let The Healing Begin
Various skin ulcers are challenging to heal due to a lack of sufficient blood flow to the affected area. Maladies like diabetic foot lacerations, venous leg ulcers and bed sores are often extremely stubborn to remedy. And oftentimes, if not dealt with swiftly, infection can set in resulting in amputation and in more serious cases, even death.
When no treatment will work, the medical profession often turns to using discarded infant foreskin. The cells residing within infant foreskin are new, high-energy and often boast magical regenerative properties, making them ideal for treatment of any sort of relentless skin ulcer.
Once extracted, these cells and all their extraordinary healing agents are transferred to designated bandages. These narrow plastic strips are then placed over top of wounds and allowed to work their regenerative magic.
Another plus is that only a few foreskins are actually needed in order to produce the millions of cells required for future treatments.
5 Cruelty-Free Zone
The next time anyone reaches for a shampoo or cosmetic that proudly proclaims “not tested on animals”, keep in mind that is most likely code for “probably tested on infant foreskin”. New swatches of skin are being grown in labs with the sole purpose of having cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and other consumer products tested on them before being sold for mass consumption. The hope is that the more skin samples are produced, the less likely products will be tested on animals.
Because the tissue residing in infant foreskin is young, the process of cell extraction as well as tissue engineering is most often a smooth and simple one. The way the newly manufactured tissue reacts to a product is identical to how it would also affect human skin. Once exposed, samples are monitored for signs of allergy or irritation. These results are far more accurate than if tested on animals.
4 Delicate Reconstructions
Reconstructive surgeries in extremely delicate areas of the human body can often prove painstaking as well as complex. Luckily, infant foreskin seems to fit the bill in most cases. For example, when surgeons are attempting to repair areas like eyelids, the inner mouth and even surprisingly when creating vaginas in male-to-female sex reassignment surgeries, tissue created from foreskin is the prime choice.
When new flaps of skin or tissue are required to repair any of these sensitive areas, doctors typically use lab-manufactured skin comprised of fibroblast cells extracted from infant foreskin. The newly formulated skin is ideal as it is young, supple, thin and sensitive itself. Plus it is flexible and resilient, making it easy for doctors to work with. Also, when dealing with skin samples created from foreskin origins, there is typically less scarring and a decreased chance of skin being rejected by the recipient.
3 Tastes Like Chicken
There are many delicious culinary combos out there - chocolate and peanut butter; strawberries and cream; foreskin and banana. Stomach-churning? Perhaps - but it hasn’t stopped a number of cultures from snipping and then snacking on clipped foreskins following circumcision.
Often viewed as a talisman of fortune and luck, some individuals consider it a great honor to eat the discarded foreskin rather than let a perfectly tasty morsel go to waste. In some Hasidic Jewish circumcision ceremonies, the detached foreskin is served up to the baby’s god parents in a soup.
Specific Aboriginal Australian tribes take the foreskin feast to a whole other level. When they come of age, boys within the tribe undergo circumcision and then proceed to eat their own foreskin . . . with one caveat. They must swallow it without chewing.
In certain Madagascar traditions, a circumcision ceremony concludes with the foreskin being offered to a guest of honor - sometimes on the tip of a banana.
2 Avoiding A Nip And Tuck
When aging gracefully isn’t an option, many individuals turn to plastic surgery, facelifts, botox or skin-firming injections. The two latter options are the less invasive procedures with both considered safe, relatively inexpensive and temporary.
Botox injections have experienced a spike in popularity since first cleared for cosmetic usage in 2002. Once injected, it relaxes facial muscles and combats wrinkles by giving the appearance of smoothness and line-free skin. However, if injecting botulism doesn’t seem all that appealing, then skin-firming injections are another option.
Different types of fillers will vary in terms of ingredients used, cost and results. Of the more popular ones on the market, many of them are created from cells extracted from infant foreskin. The fibroblast cells residing within the foreskin are the secret ingredient to younger and fresher appearing skin.
Fibroblast refers to the connective tissue cell that helps with production of the skin-firming protein collagen as well as other fibers. As skin ages, it loses its former firmness and elasticity because of the collagen breakdown. The hope with skin-filler injections is that they will plump up sagging and wrinkled skin while the fibroblast temporarily regenerates collagen.
1 Can't Touch This
A couple of other highly unusual uses for infant foreskin that are rarely discussed include: penis and urethra protection. Basically what mother nature intended with the inclusion of this little flap of skin in the first place.
When it comes to foreskin and what its specific function may be, there is always plenty of heated debate. Some feel that like the appendix, it has no real significance - at least not anymore - so for the sake of ritual or aesthetics, it is simply snipped off. The other camp believes that male circumcision is nothing more than barbaric mutilation, causing a boy needless pain and suffering.
Because this flap of skin is present at birth, many scientists believe it is there for a reason which includes:
- Protecting the penis head from possible abrasions due to clothing contact.
- Keeping the penis tip adequately moist and lubricated.
- Sheltering the thin and sensitive skin of the penis tip which some believe makes for more pleasurable sensations in the future.