Scientists have been using tummy tuck byproducts in research for years. Businesses have been selling batches of human fat cells for thousands of dollars. But do patients have a right to know where their unwanted fat ends up? The Telegraph asks.
An abdominoplasty can result in large pieces of intact flesh weighing several pounds, which are usually headed to the incinerator.
But it’s much more than just fat. It releases hormones and proteins, and it should be mined for all sorts of insights it can give about the human body. (Fat from a liposuction, it turns out, is no good. That procedure uses enzymes that break down the tissue too much.)
It would seem that a whole industry has grown up around tissue collection.
So, what about the donors, who are largely anonymous and unpaid? Most are happy to donate, such as this patient:
“I certainly didn’t feel attached to it. I was glad it was gone, and I’d rather that – a cosmetic surgery procedure which is something you choose – than blind beagles.” It appealed to her sense of thrift – her swags of unwanted flesh being put to good use. Nor did she mind a part of herself travelling to research labs around the world. But as soon as money entered the equation with the realisation that her cells could become a commodity, she became less clear. “That’s kind of strange,” she says.
There’s an intrinsic unfairness about companies making money out of people’s tissue, one researcher acknowledges, “but to say you have to pay a specific amount of money to the donor would strangle very good research.”
Discover adds this thought:
Rebecca Skloot’s 2010 book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks dealt sensitively and intelligently with this very issue. HeLa cells taken from a woman dying of cancer have been used in Nobel prize-winning research and made millions for biomedical companies. Her own children had no idea about any of this before Skloot contacted them to research her book.
[Via The Telegraph, Discover]
Image of tummy tuck via Flickr
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com