Monday, September 22, 2008

Do You Know What's In Your Face Cream?

This blog contains many issues on many levels both moral and ethical. I will put the story and the issues before you, the reader, and let you make of it what you will.

Medicine has literally joined the flesh trade. The expression, “You can find anything on the web” now includes body parts. The body part that is at the heart of this issue is a very small piece of flesh – a circumcised foreskin.

Foreskin fibroblasts are big business. A fibroblast is a piece of human skin that is used as a culture to grow other skin or cells – sort of like sourdough starter that is used repeatedly to bake successive batches of bread. Foreskin fibroblasts can be bought online from many websites for about $85.00 plus shipping and handling.

Human foreskin fibroblast is used in all kinds of medical procedures such as growing skin for burn victims and for eyelid replacement; and, to grow skin for those with diabetic ulcers (who need replacement skin to cover ulcers that won't heal). So far, all compassionate uses to help others with real medical issues. Where does the problem lie?

Some foreskins never make it to the tissue bank where they are held to be used in medical procedures. They are sold to companies to be made into creams and collagens for the cosmetic industry. Next time you think about getting about a collagen injection think about the source of those cells.

One foreskin can be used for decades (before it becomes exhausted) to produce miles of skin and generate as much as $100,000 during its lifetime. And this is where the debate begins.

Male circumcision has become a controversial topic. Things have changed from the time when using foreskins was an objection-free endeavor. Just as breast-feeding infants is making a huge resurgence as more and more people try to reduce their carbon footprint on the earth, more and more people are now looking unfavorably upon using any part of a human body in a cosmetic product no matter how small that contribution may be. In fact, many websites are now dedicated to the preservation of baby foreskins. So strong is public opinion on this that Vancouver, BC is now home to the Association for Genital Integrity whose goal is to end male circumcision and we can expect more such associations, I’m sure.

Most people make no objections when foreskin fibroblast is used for medically-necessary procedures that enrich other peoples’ lives; but, object strongly to it being used for cosmetic (vanity) purposes.

Dr. Fitzpatrick, who invented SkinMedica, defends his company by arguing that using foreskin fibroblast for face cream is ethical because the company does not put any actual human tissue in their products. He states categorically that only the growth hormone that is left over from growing artificial skin (not actual tissue or skin cells) is used. He also added that the original company that supplied SkinMedica with the hormone was using cultures that had descended from a single foreskin 15 years earlier.

He goes on to say, “It doesn't matter if you get a fibroblast from the eyelid, the cheek, the foot or the foreskin that cell is still a fibroblast; it does the same thing. Foreskins were used because that is a common surgery and the skin is thrown away; so, why not use it for benefits? Twelve years ago when this was done, there would have been no objection to using foreskin tissue."

When Dr. Fitzpatrick was asked about older uncircumcised men wanting to earn some of the $100,000 a foreskin can earn during its lifetime, he replied, “Fibroblasts that are made from young skin are more active than fibroblast from a 60- or 70-year-old. The skin reproduces better in young tissue; you are using that cell as a factory ... eventually the tissue samples need to be refreshed ... a young cell produces more and lasts longer."

Newborn tissue is particularly valuable, not only because of its vitality; but, also because it is usually guaranteed to be healthy. Obviously, tissue used in any kind of medical procedure must be healthy.

If you are not disturbed yet; you will be. Fitzpatrick adds that foreskin tissue has been the easiest tissue to access -- ethically -- up till now, "because you are not having to use stem cells or fetal tissue in order to still get young tissue."

Neocutis is another face cream -- but this one uses cells grown from a terminated fetus to make the product. This information is documented on its website. What is not on their website is Dr. Nikhil Mehta’s opinion of Neocutis. Dr. Mehta is director of product development for SkinMedica. He stated, "They are actually taking cells, literally chopping up the cells, and putting them in cream."

Another page on the Neocutis website describes how they harvested the tissue of a terminated two-month-old fetus "in the period of scarless wound healing." It is out of this tissue that they developed the cell culture used in creating their special "bio restorative skin cream" with their patented secret ingredient.

According to Dr. Fitzpatrick there is a period during neonatal development where wounds will heal without scarring. While no one can explain why this happens, it is accepted wisdom that these properties are not transferable from one human to another by cell absorption.

The Issues:

Foreskin fibroblasts are very vital and this cream DOES cause changes in the skin of the user causing it to become firmer and tighter. These fibroblasts are absorbed into the body little by little producing a cumulative effect. The user is usually a woman, the fibroblasts are male. This cream has already demonstrated that it does have an effect on your face. Couldn’t some of these effects gravitate outside the target area – your face – and travel around your body on the blood-red highway? Isn’t anyone worried about the long-term results of constantly introducing male fibroblasts (at their most vital) into their female bodies on a daily basis? I would be.

Do these parents know that these foreskins that they believe will be disposed of as medical waste may be sold to a cosmetic agency? If not, why not? That foreskin is the property of the baby (reverting to the parents) and shouldn’t be used for undisclosed purposes. If the foreskin is sold to a cosmetic agency, shouldn’t the baby (parents) be compensated fairly for his/their part of the transaction? Without that foreskin, there would be no transaction.

Should we be using parts of other human beings to keep us youthful looking and attractive? Where and when will it all end? What damage will we have reeked before it ends?

1 comment:

kathi said...

Wow - you sure can come up with great subjects, P. I'm learning a lot. For decades I've been a member of a group that educates on not circumcising. I respect some cultures have it as part of their religion, but it is an outdated custom with no good health reasons.

At the start of this article, I had no problem with the idea of using these cells to make cells for face cream. I went a few days without using the Clinique I've used for decades and realized my skin would be thick, leathery and more wrinkled had I not used it faithfully.

By the time I got to the end of the article, I felt differently. Given that young girls are maturing so much earlier (usually attributed to hormones in milk & meat) and other odd changes, this is something to consider.

I'll be really glad when we (Univera) roll out the new skin care products. They are so particular about everything, I know it will not only be great and environmentally safe, but also that I'll get to learn more about what is desirable and 'top shelf' in skin care.