Aunt Flo saves the day

Here's something we didn't know about menstrual blood: It can be used to repair hearts.

Published April 28, 2008 4:00PM (EDT)

As much of a strident, humorless feminist as I am, I've never been the "menstruation is sacred" type. I'm glad there's decreasing cultural pressure on girls and women to be downright ashamed of our periods, but I've sure never felt any great need to perform, like, moon rituals.

After reading this article about Japanese researchers using menstrual blood to grow heart tissue, though, I'm thinking maybe I don't show Aunt Flo enough respect. Turns out there's a kind of cell in there that works a lot like a stem cell, presenting the possibility that menstrual blood could eventually be used to repair heart and other muscle damage.

Unlike a stem cell, this one can't become any kind of human tissue the scientists need it to be, but it does seem especially well suited to growing heart muscle. In tests combining these cells with some from rat hearts, 20 percent of the cells eventually formed new heart tissue -- a success rate 100 times greater than what has been found with stem cells taken from human bone marrow. And although these cells don't have the same range of applications as stem cells, they're not necessarily limited to growing heart muscle; they could conceivably produce other kinds of muscle tissue, making them useful for treatment of muscular dystrophy, for instance.

I still don't think I'm up for a moon ritual. But I might just have a celebratory beer when I get my period next month, 'cause this is pretty freakin' cool.

By Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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