Disposable tampons for menstrual blood stem cell (MenSC) collection
Image credit: Downloaded from https://www.pexels.com/photo/red-dots-on-blue-surface-6590830/ and edited.
J. NikolaNov 07, 2021
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Biodegradable tampons and pads that are comfortable for whole-day use, have a great soaking power and can preserve blood cells alive for up to 24-hours + the 7-day preserving kit.
Officially, menstruation (period) is a regular discharge of blood and mucosal tissue from the inner lining of the uterus through the vagina . Every adult woman experiences it, which makes almost 2 billion women "bleeding" regularly every month. With an average monthly menstrual fluid volume being 35 ml, women bleed 70 000 000 liters a month.
The fluid contains about 50% of blood rich in sodium, calcium, phosphate, iron, and chloride. The other half is mainly made of cervical mucus, vaginal secretions, and endometrial tissue .
Besides some bizarre ideas on how to use menstrual fluid such as painting your jeans, making nail polish, mixing it with vaseline and using it as a lip balm, fertilizing your garden, using it as a face mask or making your Halloween costume even more real , I was thinking about how can we use it more efficiently and tackle the problem of higher importance?
The stem cells
What I found was that some scientists think the stem cells from menstrual fluid could be an easier way to get these precious cells.
More specifically, scientists isolated menstrual blood mesenchymal stem cells (MenSCs, MB-MSC), that successfully differentiated to osteoblasts, adipocytes, and chondrocytes, and were able to survive many passages in vitro due to their high plastic adherence and high inter-cell contact inhibition . Another study proved the differentiation of MenSCs into mesodermal (cartilage, adipose, and bone), neural, cardiogenic lineages. Interestingly, MesSC also retained 50% of their telomerase activity at passage 12 when compared to human embryonic stem cells . Considering all the above-mentioned properties, MesSCs showed incredible therapeutic effects and functional characteristics in various diseases, including liver disease, diabetes, stroke, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, ovarian-related disease, myocardial infarction, Asherman syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, acute lung injury, cutaneous wound, endometriosis, and neurodegenerative diseases and became an important tool in regenerative medicine of respiratory, musculoskeletal, digestive, nervous, cardiovascular and reproductive systems .
The standard collection procedure
Usually, menstrual fluid/blood is collected by retaining a menstrual cup in the vagina for several hours. After that, the sample is transferred into phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) containing 1% penicillin and streptomycin, maintained at 4°C, and transported to the laboratory within 24 h of collection. Every sample is tested for Infectious pathology by the HIV, HCV, and HBV tests. Cells are centrifuged and seeded in specific growth medium.
Although a very good non-invasive method of acquiring MesSCs, the use of vaginal cups for the collection of menstrual blood require professional guidance, is often uncomfortable (multiple folding during insertion, squeezing and overflowing during extraction ), and cannot be used daily because women mostly prefer tampons and soaking pads due to the comfort of use. In 2010, there was a try of a student to produce a novel way of collecting mesenchymal blood by silicone "tampons" . The so-called "stem cell collector" didn't come to life, probably due to the "ick factor" and the repellence and discomfort of ladies of using silicone inserts. It seems that ladies wouldn't accept the hurdle of using the cups, even if they could sell the collected blood.
Therefore, my idea would be to create biodegradable tampons and pads that are comfortable for whole-day use, have a great soaking power, and can preserve blood cells alive for up to 24 hours.
Design and material: Design would be conventional with smaller changes to implement a "cooler", more modern look. The tampons and pads would be made out of 100% biodegradable cotton with an inner matrix made of trehalose hydrogel, which would help stem cells to survive longer. Trehalose was shown to interact more strongly with both water and proteins and can displace water molecules better than sucrose. It also has a proven antioxidant effect and can preserve cells longer than sucrose . To enhance the trehalose loading, basic amino acid-rich cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs), such as peptide KRKRWHW would be used .
Function: The tampons and pads would have a standard soaking power, no matter the trehalose and other compounds added. Once soaked with menstrual fluid, tampons and pads would serve as a preservative environment for MesSCs rich with nutrients and protectants that allow them to survive for a couple of hours.
Preservation of stem cell viability: After the tampons and pads have been used for several hours, they would be disposed of in a bottle containing liquid preservative that is kept in cold (fridge, freezer). The tampons and pads would degrade in the liquid, release stem cells and allow them to attach to the pre-made in-bottle growing surfaces.
Recycling: After one menstrual bleeding cycle of 2-7 days, users would be able to "recycle" the sealed cold-kept bottle in the nearest pharmacy, hospital, clinic or health center. After the delivery, they would get a new empty bottle and a pack of tampons/pads of choice!
The company or a lab would then open the bottles, centrifuge the cells and grow them in a specific growth medium, cryopreserve them, build stem cell banks, and deliver the stem cell products to the needed ones in clinics, hospitals, research labs, etc.
comfortable and safe sanitary products
cool design, color, and texture
great soaking capabilities
recyclable, thus eco-friendly
free - for every used product that a person "recycles" following the company's guideline, they get a free one
supporting-research - each return serves as a new source of potentially life-saving stem cells which will be used in research, and hopefully in clinical purposes later on; it would make it affordable and reachable for all the research teams and thus, boost the stem cell research
What are your thoughts?
What is the "weakest link" in the story?
How would you enhance the idea? Do you have some interesting ideas on how to preserve stem cells longer, which materials to use, etc.?
Weak link - Pathogenic or non-pathogenic vaginal flora affecting the stem cells
Shubhankar KulkarniNov 08, 2021
The collection method cannot eliminate the contact of the menstrual blood mesenchymal stem cells (MenSCs) with the vaginal flora. Moreover, their storage (even 2-7 days) can act as an incubation period for the flora that may grow in numbers. Even though the woman is pathogen-free, the usual flora may affect the cells negatively, since they will be in direct contact with the stem cells. Although the stem cells can respond to pathogens and illicit an immune response, they may not be able to eliminate the flora in vitro (on the pad or tampon).
I thought of adding an antibiotic to the storage medium but that could, too, negatively affect the stem cells. The identification and collection of non-infected stem cells will be another hurdle for clinicians. Is there a way to avoid this?
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Dry preservation as a more ecological alternative
J. NikolaNov 07, 2021
Another preserving option could be dry preservation of tampons and pads using a small easy-to-use home drying method, comparable to the technique that turns grapes into raisins.
Preserving tampons and cells in the bottle could be inconvenient due to bulkiness and the non-ecological materials used for the bottle. If we find a way to maintain the survival of the cells upon revival approximately the same as after the cryopreserving, air drying could be a more convenient method.
Where did the idea come from?
Far in 2003, researchers air-dried stem cells previously soaked in trehalose and arbutin to support cell survival. The cells were then seal-packed. When researchers wanted to revive them, they just opened a pack and added water (probably some stem cell growth medium would be better).
The methodical part
I would suggest having a small and cheap home kit for dry tampon/pad preservance. The method should be simple as putting a tampon in the water for 10 minutes and then drying it using a small commercially-available dryer. Dried tampons and pads could then be seal-packed and kept cold/delivered to the nearest health center.That way, the users could buy the device once, support eco-friendly solutions and have an unlimited source of free tampons/pads.