When you go into a hospital, do you expect the hospital and biotech industries to make a profit from your surgical specimens? Well in the case of circumcision, your child’s foreskin could be making thousands of dollars for the biotech industry.A baby’s foreskin is full of cells, called fibroblasts, that produce structural proteins like collagen. When fibroblasts are extracted, multiple products can be developed, such as artificial skin for plastic surgery, injectable wrinkle treatments and even skin creams that sell for hundreds of dollars per jar.
The ethical question is: Should you be informed that your child’s foreskin is going to become a profitable commodity? Circumcision continues to be a controversial topic, but the majority of people don’t realize that many of the byproducts from human bodies translate to big bucks for biotech companies.
The question that I have is: Who does that foreskin belong to? Right now, this industry is not very well regulated. Yes, the FDA keeps tabs on tissue banks nationally, but many of them also have affiliations and partnerships outside the U.S. where the FDA has no regulatory control.
I don’t see a lot of disclosure or transparency by medical centers in their contractual agreements they may have with biotech companies in regards to selling human byproducts. It’s important to note this is not the same as patients donating tissue like bone marrow or organs that are very regulated, and in my opinion, doing God’s work. But when the tissue that is up for grabs is being sold off without the patient’s knowledge, is that ethical? I don’t think it is, and I want to hear from you about what you think about this topic.
In the meantime, celebrities from Oprah Winfrey to Barbara Walters have reportedly promoted the skin benefits of facial creams made from foreskin cells. Well, let me tell you a fact I am certain of: At the end of the day, we’re all going to get old. We should all just accept that sooner or later your skin reflects your age.
Published March 23, 2015. By Dr. Manny Alvarez
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