Babies' foreskins: The new wonder material? Maybe. They're already being used to make wrinkle creams, and now German scientists have developed a machine that uses the foreskin of young boys to grow artificial skin, reports the Local. For now, the researchers hope their innovation can be used for testing consumer products, replacing animal testing—but the technology's longer-term potential is much more ambitious, and could be used for creating artificial corneas and for research into cancer and a whole host of illnesses.
The process works by extracting skin cells from donated foreskins using a 23-foot-long skin machine capable of extracting up to 10 million skin cells per foreskin; those cells then multiply hundreds of times. The new cells are mixed with collagen and connective tissue to become "real" skin. One month's output clocks in at about 5,000 skin samples, though they're not yet being used in testing. "There are complicated international safety standards, these procedures can’t just be changed," said a pharmaceutical spokesman. But he believes that "cells from artificially cultivated skin are indeed comparable with real skin." Click for more on the "skin factory." (Read more medical research stories.)