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.