German Factory Uses Infant Foreskin to Grow Human Skin

By Danelle Frisbie

An employee at the Fraunhofer Institute holds a culture plate with foreskin-grown skin samples.

We've watched before as human foreskin is harvested from infant boys in the United States and sold for use in cosmetics nationally and overseas. We've seen foreskin taken from infant babies and used in skin grafting for burn victims. Now a laboratory dubbed the "Skin Factory" at the Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart, Germany is using vorhaut von kindern - children's foreskin - to grow new skin samples for testing cosmetics and other products.

Project spokesperson, Andreas Traube, says researchers hope that this use of human foreskin could replace animal testing, and eventually be used in developing treatments for cancer, pigmentation diseases, and certain skin allergies.

The process itself takes six weeks to complete, and during this time 10 million skin cells are grown from one single boy's foreskin - to make new skin up to five millimeters thick. A machine is used to heat the foreskin to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (the temperature of the human body), and robotic hands extract cells from the organ. Scientists then take the extracted cells, mix them with collagen and connective tissue, and incubate them inside a petri dish lined tube, where they multiply at the same regulated temperature. This tube, approximately 22 feet long, 10 feet wide and 10 feet high, fosters the growth of the foreskin's cells into an epidermis layer of skin (the outermost skin on the human body). Three layers of this new skin are finally put together to create the end sample. In regards to the month and a half long time frame, Traube says, "We can't use the machine to speed up the process; biology needs time to take its course."

While European authorities have yet to authorize the Skin Factory for official use in product testing, new skin swatches from young human foreskin is begin produced at a rate of 5,000 samples per month and authorities are examining the factory to determine if the skin can be used commercially. "It's logical that we'd want to take the operation to a bigger scale," said Traube. And at least one German organization has already expressed interest in the machine. "I think the idea is a good one. I believe cells from artificially cultivated skin are indeed comparable with real skin," says Rolf Homke, spokesman for the German Association of Research-based Pharmaceutical Companies. "I do think it might take a few years to get up and running though. There are complicated international safety standards -- these procedures can't just be changed overnight."

One ethical problem in all of this? These harvested foreskins belong to babies and toddlers who are not yet able to consent to the organ's amputation from their own bodies. The Skin Factory uses foreskin only from newborn baby boys up to four years of age, and the goal is to gather as many infant foreskins as possible. "The older the foreskin is, the worse it performs," says Traube. And this foreskin (the prepuce organ) is one that all mammals are born with, male and female alike. It is on the human body for a purpose - it serves many important developmental, immunological, and sexual functions. Just as the foreskin is valuable to researchers when amputated from babies and toddlers, it is of even more value when it remains on the body to which it belongs.

Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology

Related Reading:

Huffington Post report on the skin factory:

New York Daily News report on the skin factory:

The Foreskins in Oprah's Face Cream

Article Asks, "Are Infant Foreskins the New Botox?"

Stealing Foreskins: The Science of Skin Grafting



  1. I am sick to my stomach reading this. Technology is great, but what these companies do at the expense of innocent and unconsenting children is abhorrent.

  2. No infant ever donated his foreskin. These researchers are trafficking in stolen human body parts.

    Hey, you know what else foreskins are good for? Mind-blowing sexual pleasure for their owner and his partner!

    Foreskin feels REALLY good becuase it includes about 20,000 specialized nerve endings, keeps the glans supple and sensitive, and affords an awesome slinking gliding mode of stimulation.

    HIS body, HIS decision.

  3. I'm a week to late to comment on this - but I just have to defend the Frauenhofer Institute...

    Here in Germany, circumcissions are no standard procedure most boys have to go through upon arrival. A vast majority of circumsissions happen for medical reasons. I don't know a single circumcised boy (and I know a lot of boys).

    In my opinion this is not different from donating your placenta or the blood from the umbilical chord - it's either donating them or throwing it away (although I know there are things one can do with a placenta).

    All in all - I don't find the use of foreskin that shocking and repulsing. However - this is coming from someone who sees absolutely no sense in animal testing (as in "Makes no sense to asume that something that cures a disease in an animal will cure the disease in a human")...

    1. A person who donates an organ (including placentas) is willingly and consciously CHOOSING TO DO SO. Of their own free will. Babies have no such choice. If a grown man wants to donate his foreskin, and consents to the procedure, I have absolutely ZERO problem with that. It's the fact that most parents are usually lied to about what happens to the foreskins after amputation, and the fact the the patient (ie; THE CHILD) did not consent to the procedure.

  4. @ever-losing-lee - The difference between donating a placenta for research vs. the prepuce is that one is an organ that naturally deconnects from the body, and will be gotten rid of one way or another as part of the normal life cycle. The purchase of neonatal foreskins drives a huge business and market for them here in the United States - it is literally $$$ speaking and keeping this awful procedure going on newborn boys here when there is absolutely no justification for it. Giving those who cut, and hospitals, yet another place to sell their harvested organs is supporting a corrupt market. Physicians have been asked why they don't stop cutting when they KNOW it is not beneficial, and is indeed harmful - many say they can't stop because they will lose money, and lose business. It all comes down to the power of the dollar. And if the organ were only valuable on the body of the boy to whom it belongs, then there would not be so many who were hungry to remove it.

  5. This is not ethical skin harvesting. The person who owns the valuable part has no choice. The fact that an erotogenic part of a non-consensual male neonate is being sacrificed for an adult's vanity is really disturbing to me.

  6. So much for cruelty free. Heh. Now I have to make sure the "No Animal Testing" label on my things, also means "No testing on stolen human fibroblast tissue" aka infant foreskin.

    Screw it I'll make my own moisturizers from now on.

  7. I don't know how anyone can accept that baby boy foreskins that have been cut off for non medical reasons, are sold at top dollar when they are called "medical waste" by the hospital. this is highly unethical. Hospitals do not disclose this to parents when they are asked (or pestered) to sign consent forms. They lump everything together on a standard form and get parents to sign away a part of their child's body. It's sickening! I don't accept animal testing as being ethical either so neither of these are ethical and both are traumatic.

  8. If someone who is fully informed decides to donate a part of their body for science.....then fine. As long as a defenseless infant cannot make such a is highly unethical for this kind of decision to be made for their body. Parents DO NOT have a right to make a decision to cut off a normal natural healthy part of their babies body.....they just don't!



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