File this under gross and kind of brilliant: Chelsea Briganti, a senior at ParsonsThe New School for Design has produced a device that collects menstrualblood for adult stem cells. Made of medical-grade silicone andresembling an ultra-thick thick condom, Mademoicell works like atampon. Pop it in, fill it up, pull it out, store in the fridgealongside last night’s leftovers, ship to the lab, and voila, you havethe makings of new heart tissue!
It’s a great idea, once you getpast the squirm factor. Stem cell medicine is quickly approaching clinical use, and one day we might really live with products like these. Menstrual stem cells in particular harness the benefits of stem cells, but without creating a wake of moral quandaries. “The stem cells found in menstrual blood possessembyronic stem cell markers, which means that they can differentiatebetween nine different types of cells,” the designer Brigantisays. “These are more potent than bone marrow.” Based on pre-clinical trials, they’re shaping up to be one of the most promising, renewable, non-invasive sources of stemcells.
Still, while Mademoicell is available for $75 for three, it’s obviously a conceptual product meant to highlight an issue (you can’t take a packet of stem cells to your doctor yet). And anyway, it’s hard to picture Mademoicell gaining much traction in aculture that’s deadset on pretending periods are all beaches andballoons. A product likethis–one that not only acknowledges that women get a period butactually does something useful with it–threatens the taboos surrounding the menstrual cycle. (Are you squirming while reading that? Exactly.)
Briganti’s ideal customer is, she says,”a young, exuberant, active, strong, empowered woman, who cares abouther health.” In other words, the same fresh-faced women targeted inevery lousy Tampax commercial.
She might be catering to the wrong group. Stem cells aremaking inroads in the cosmetics industry,firming eyes, lips, and boobs everywhere. There’s no reason menstrualstem cells can’t do the same. For some women, then, the curse could becomea false blessing: overcoming one stigma to prop up another.
[Top image: Martin Seck; Middle image courtesy of Chelsea Briganti]