Thursday, July 3, 2008

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be Famous ... and Have Scientists Grow Me Skin in Test Tube?

Some things will never change. In a faltering economy with a stock market that’s officially been declared bear, the wealthy are still spending their confusingly exorbitant amounts of cash on random crap while the unemployment rate continues to skyrocket. Case in point number one: Pharrell Williams.

Williams, a multi-millionaire music producer, has commissioned the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Skin Treatment in North Carolina to grow him some new skin in a lab (because they can totally do that now). It seems Mr.Williams has grown tired of some of his many tattoos, and he would like a fresh, ahem, canvas.

When it’s ready to go, the skin, which is created using a sample of his existing epidermis, will be grafted onto Williams, and after it heals he said he intends to have that new shiny spot all inked up.

I realize skin is a pretty amazing organ but imagining Williams getting a tattoo on his grafts creeps my shit out. Needles going in ... chunks of skin ... falling off ... but I guess that’s okay because he just has his old skin underneath, right? Although that begs the question, how can you just graft new skin onto skin that’s already there, that’s perfectly healthy? What happens if he gets tired of that tattoo? I don’t think this is a procedure you can do more than once. Actually, I think there’s just too many things about this that make it seem like a bad idea.

Many parents would say tattoos in general are a bad idea. I would disagree. I have one myself, and I intend to get more. It’s just that it’s been more than a year since my last tattoo because I spend a lot of time thinking about my next one. Maybe Williams could have saved some cash by thinking a little more about his tattoos, but then again I’m just an idealist.

The tragedy of this is for every bored and egotistic Pharrell Williams, there’s probably at least 12 burn victims who would refinance their house to get what’s left of their hands on skin just like theirs – because it is theirs – and the replication of which won’t cause them any further pain. But then again, how many burn victims do you know who have as much money as Williams? (Two-Face from Batman doesn’t count.)

That said, Williams’ commission is far from being the first time a scientific breakthrough has been used to satisfy vanity; after all, plastic surgeons repair the faces of both aging socialites and children with cleft palates. Similarly, Botox injections can used to tighten the visages of the aforementioned aging socialites or to soothe the muscles of those who suffer from cerebral palsy.

What makes this different is because, in a word, it is ridiculous. Kudos to you, Mr. Williams, for taking it to another level.

Somewhere, there’s a room full of scientists and futurists scratching their heads.

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