The Good Men Project Interview with Eric Clopper: Can Men Really Regrow Foreskins?
Can Men Really Re-Grow Foreskins?
Savas Abadsidis chats with Eric Clopper about the new medical technology that may help circumcised men regrow a fully functional foreskin.
Secular male circumcision is a subject matter that is controversial at best, at worst it’s something that people see as an unnecessary and often damaging surgery often performed within a few hours of being born. Prior to now, it’s also been irreversible (despite some claims to the contrary, there have been no means that actually re-create the original tissue). Combine that with an equally controversial science: stem cells; until now, stem cells have been associated with everything from Alzheimer’s to organ regeneration, enter Foregen (www.foregen.org), a new health and technology company based in Italy that promises to recreate male foreskin and restore what’s lost during routine circumcisions. I spoke to Foregen spokesman Eric Clopper about the new company and the reasons why the issue is important to him.
What is Foregen and what do they do?
Foregen is an international nonprofit research organization founded by Italian national, Enzo Aiello. We are applying the advances in the field of regenerative medicine to the only body part that is missing from 100’s of millions of people… the foreskin. Hence the name Foregen, i.e. foreskin regeneration.
What most of the world knows and what many Americans are finding out is that the foreskin is the heart of male sexuality. It contains up to 50% of all penile tissue and 80% of the sensory tissue in the penis.
Amputating [the foreskin] devastates a man’s capacity to feel sexual pleasure: removing the vast majority of nerve endings, the lubrication of a rolling foreskin, and the natural sensitivity of the head—an internal organ. What’s especially disturbing is that the procedure is routinely done against the man’s will when he’s an infant.
Thanks to the internet, millions of men are learning about the damage from circumcision from a quick Google search. Foregen’s goal is to align the overwhelming demand for a solution to circumcision with the existing technology that can actually reverse it.
Regenerative medicine has accomplished so much in the past few years. We can now regenerate parts of fingers, breast tissue, bladders, tracheas, and even whole internal vaginas! We’re only years away from regenerating complex organ systems such as hearts and kidneys. Why not apply this technology to the only body part that over 100 million people are missing in the US so they can have better sex? Who’s not interested in that?
We have already begun experimentation on animal tissue and will progress onto human adult foreskin. We’re on the verge of many big breakthroughs with the development of our new site, the release of our first experiment, our growing base of supporters, and our upcoming Kickstarter and documentary. Foregen has a very bright future; I encourage any man (or his partner) who is looking for better sex to join us and make this future a reality.
How is this different than previous efforts at foreskin restoration?
Records of men trying to restore their foreskins extend as far as the ancient Greek Olympics, where all men competed in the buff. In an attempt to avoid ridicule for lacking the natural form the Greeks so loved, competing Jews would apply pressure to the remnants of their foreskin to gradually stretch the skin and appear intact, i.e. uncircumcised. In response to Jews abandoning their circumcisions, rabbis of the time actually radicalized circumcision to what it is today – progressing from partial to complete removal of the prepuce.
Today, circumcised men still endure the years of toil, stretching what is left of their foreskin, to achieve a natural appearance. There are tangible benefits to this. You can regain some of the natural lubrication and sensitivity of the head, but the 20,000 specialized nerve endings and the frenulum—the male G-spot—cannot be regained.
Foregen differs because we aim to replace everything that is lost in circumcision. We will regenerate all 15 square inches of the highly innervated and erogenous tissue that make up the foreskin and transplant it on the circumcision scar that cut men share. Of course, this procedure is subject to change as we progress, but that is the general idea.
How did you personally become involved in this?
I never thought I would have such a passion for foreskins; I didn’t even know what they were until I was almost 20! I grew up, like many Americans, believing that a circumcised penis was normal and that a natural penis was weird. I even have memories of teasing my best friend who is uncircumcised! Oh, how the tables have turned.
In college, I listened to two of my good friends, one cut and one not, who were arguing over the merits of circumcision. After hearing the pro-circumcision argument, I realized it didn’t have much to stand on. But, hey, I’m circumcised and I love my penis so I needed to research it myself.
Unfortunately for me, my intact friend was right on all accounts. It sounds crazy now, but I really did support removing such an integral part of the penis because of the cultural bias. Only once I realized that I’m in the minority being circumcised, and that all throughout history it was done explicitly to curb sexual pleasure, did I go through that phase that I think most informed circumcised men go through—despair.
After coping with the loss of the most pleasurable part of my penis, I began to brainstorm solutions. Once I stumbled upon Foregen, I knew immediately that this was it. If we could inform the hundreds of millions of cut men of their loss and get a small fraction to contribute to a regenerative crowdfunding campaign, then we’ve done it.
Have you ever talked with your parents about circumcision?
So the status quo in America used to be this: someone else would sign a consent form to amputate a very important part of your penis that I can say with absolute certainty you wouldn’t in a million years decide to cut off yourself. (The vast majority of intact men would never dream of cutting off the most pleasurable part of their penis. Don’t believe me? Ask an intact friend.)
Your penis is not the family penis. Your family does not have the right to make a decision about your penis that you would never choose for yourself. Unfortunately, society has conditioned us to believe otherwise. As a man, it’s your responsibility to take a stance on this issue. You don’t have the responsibility to defend someone else’s decision to perform a reductive surgery on your penis that makes you smaller, removes most of your sensory tissue, and destroys all the natural mobility that most men in the world enjoy.
So when you ask if I’ve ever talked to my parents about this, the answer is yes. Parents need to know what circumcision really is.
The debate whether or not to circumcise your infant is independent of sex. The answer is a resounding No.
Do you think that this is something that needs to be addressed legally (i.e. Attorney for the Rights of the Child)?
That’s a tough question… Join me in a thought experiment for a minute. If I were to restrain you and skin half of your genitals off, removing most of the sensory tissue against your will, should I be prosecuted? Of course! But, when we do the same exact thing to an infant we rationalize it with a consent form!
Sorry to be so graphic, but that’s what happens.
Most of the doctors performing circumcision in the United States know nothing of the foreskin; their medical books omitted it as if a cut penis is a natural one. These doctors only have the best intentions for these children, so it’s unfair to prosecute them. At the same time, cutting off large pieces of [an infant’s genitals] under the guise of a medical coat and an operating room is no excuse either.
I don’t think it is wise to seek legal reparations from these doctors. However, I do believe circumcising doctors and organizations owe our American men an apology and a promise to never amputate healthy parts from our children again.
But, for those men who’d rather have the choice, please visit www.foregen.org and become a Supporter today. With your support, we can continue our research to reverse this archaic tradition and restore yours a loved one’s genital integrity.
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 Fleiss, Paul, and Frederick Mansfield. Hodges. What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about Circumcision. New York: Warner, 2002. Print.
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 Taylor, J. R., A. P. Lockwood, and A. J. Taylor. “Physical Effects of Circumcision.” BJUI International. British Journal of Urology, Feb. 1996. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.
 Fingers: “Stem Cells Regenerate New Finger!” YouTube. CBS Evening News, 18 Sept. 2009. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_OI4TtzlDw>.
Breast Tissue: Tanaka, Satoru, Nayuko Sato, Hiroya Fujioka, Yuko Takahashi, Kosei Kimura, Mitsuhiko Iwamoto, and Kazuhisa Uchiyama. “Breast Conserving Surgery Using Volume Replacement with Oxidized Regenerated Cellulose: A Cosmetic Outcome Analysis.” The Breast Journal (2013): N/a. Wiley Online Library. Web. <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/tbj.12229/abstract?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false>.
“Suzanne Somers’ Stem Cell Breast Reconstruction Surgery – Episode 1.” YouTube, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xt55cTQEoHk&feature=related>.
Bladders: Atala, Anthony, Stuart B. Bauer, Shay Soker, James J. Yoo, and Alan B. Retik. “Tissue-engineered Autologous Bladders for Patients Needing Cystoplasty.” The Lancet 367.9518 (2006): 1241-246. Web. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16631879>.
Atala, Anthony. “Anthony Atala: Printing a Human Kidney.” TED Talk.YouTube. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RMx31GnNXY>.
Tracheas: Suzuki, T., K. Kobayashi, Y. Tada, Y. Suzuki, I. Wada, T. Nakamura, and K. Omori. “Regeneration of the Trachea Using a Bioengineered Scaffold with Adipose-derived Stem Cells.” Annals of Otology, Rhonology, and Laryngology 117 (2008): 453-63. PubMed. Web. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18646443>.
“Trachea regenerated using patient’s own stem cells.” YouTube, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2vrnrxbcfM>.
Whole internal vaginas:
“Laboratory-Grown Vaginas Implanted in Patients, Scientists Report.” Wake Forest Baptist Health. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, 10 Apr. 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.wakehealth.edu/News-Releases/2014/Laboratory-Grown_Vaginas_Implanted_in_Patients,_Scientists_Report.htm>.
“Lab Grown Vaginas Transplanted Into Women.” YouTube. The Young Turks, 11 Apr. 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lANJ_w7p1II>.
 Scientific Report of Foregen’s First Experiment: Bondiolo, E., A. Carboni, V. Purpura, D. Melandri, M. Poemi, C. A. Cirioni, and V. Aiello. “Preliminary Data for the Development of a Decellularized Membrane from Animal Dermis.” (2014): n. pag. Web. <https://drive.google.com/a/colgate.edu/file/d/0B6G_pXmOKKCWdDUyZTRzbGoxT2M/view%3e.>.
 Video of Foregen’s First Experiment decellularizing animal tissue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhKx0aPktrE&list=UUUPHstb4Zzc-e1lbJVrT5HA
 Gollaher, David. Circumcision: A History of the World’s Most Controversial Surgery. New York: Basic, 2000. Print.
 Glick, Leonard B. Marked in Your Flesh: Circumcision from Ancient Judea to Modern America. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.