Almost Genius: The Once-a-Month Stem-Cell Collector for Ladies

A Parsons design student whips up a silicone tampon that collects stem cell-rich menstrual blood. Move over, baby embryos!


File this under gross and kind of brilliant: Chelsea Briganti, a senior at Parsons The New School for Design has produced a device that collects menstrual blood for adult stem cells. Made of medical-grade silicone and resembling an ultra-thick thick condom, Mademoicell works like a tampon. Pop it in, fill it up, pull it out, store in the fridge alongside last night's leftovers, ship to the lab, and voila, you have the makings of new heart tissue!

It's a great idea, once you get past the squirm factor. Stem cell medicine is quickly approaching clinical use, and one day we might really live with products like these. Menstrual stem cells in particular harness the benefits of stem cells, but without creating a wake of moral quandaries. "The stem cells found in menstrual blood possess embyronic stem cell markers, which means that they can differentiate between nine different types of cells," the designer Briganti says. "These are more potent than bone marrow." Based on pre-clinical trials, they're shaping up to be one of the most promising, renewable, non-invasive sources of stem cells.


Still, while Mademoicell is available for $75 for three, it's obviously a conceptual product meant to highlight an issue (you can't take a packet of stem cells to your doctor yet). And anyway, it's hard to picture Mademoicell gaining much traction in a culture that's deadset on pretending periods are all beaches and balloons. A product like this—one that not only acknowledges that women get a period but actually does something useful with it—threatens the taboos surrounding the menstrual cycle. (Are you squirming while reading that? Exactly.)

Briganti's ideal customer is, she says, "a young, exuberant, active, strong, empowered woman, who cares about her health." In other words, the same fresh-faced women targeted in every lousy Tampax commercial.

She might be catering to the wrong group. Stem cells are making inroads in the cosmetics industry, firming eyes, lips, and boobs everywhere. There's no reason menstrual stem cells can't do the same. For some women, then, the curse could become a false blessing: overcoming one stigma to prop up another.

[Top image: Martin Seck; Middle image courtesy of Chelsea Briganti]

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  • Clara

    Sistuh Moon aka C'elle representative:
    This girl didn't have an article written about her for some sort of scientific discovery regarding stem cell research, she had an article written about her DESIGN for collecting it. You make it sound like you think she went into a lab and is claiming to have come up with new uses for the stem cells in menstrual blood. She just came up with an interesting way to collect it. She goes to a design school. Duh. Your critical reading skills are lacking (though your eagerness to criticize is definitely not.) K bye.

  • Mademoicell

    Hi Her_Instrument and Sistuh Moon,

    I would be happy to speak with you further about the rigorous user testing, research and form development that I underwent during the process of designing and engineering Mademoicell. Mademoicell was designed in partnership with a gynecologist and stem cell scientist. Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

  • her_instrument

    Hardly genius... menstrual cups (including multi-coloured ones!) made of high grade medical silicone have been around for-ever, and that "silicone tampon" version looks both uncomfortable and leaky.



    "Briganti's ideal customer is, she says, "a young, exuberant, active, strong, empowered woman, who cares about her health." In other words, the same fresh-faced women targeted in every lousy Tampax commercial. "
    An empowered woman wouldn't find her period "icky" (as Briganti described usage of menstrual cups elsewhere) and would already be using a menstrual cup, and not one that comes at $25 a pop and that you throw away after a single use (what a waste!!!) It just occurred to me that this $25 cup wouldn't even last your whole period, only one change.. a few hours, meaning you'd be paying hundreds of dollars per cycle if you were to use this as a menstrual cup.

  • Sistuh Moon

    Silicone tampons to harvest monthly menstrual stem cells are hardly a novel invention and it is completely erroneous for this concept to be represented as such.

    In November 2007, a globally renowned, industry-leading stem cell preservation company called Cryo-Cell International, Inc. with over 200,000 umbilical cord blood stem cells clients worldwide, discovered and introduced menstrual stem cell technology that empowers women to collect and cryopreserve stem cells harvested from their own menstrual fluid for future potential therapeutic use.

    The service is called C'elle and can be easily purchased on the C'elle website. Cryo-Cell collaborates with leading stem cell researchers worldwide in pre-clinical studies using C'elle stem cells and the Company has several well-respected, peer-reviewed scientific publications demonstrating the characteristics and potential of these highly prolific and novel menstrual stem cells for future treatment of disorders such as stroke; heart disease; breast cancer; and diabetes to name a few.

    Cryo-Cell's C'elle technology portfolio is expansive and patent-pending. The C'elle service has been available for nearly three years.

    The editors of Popular Science, Fast Company and the Parsons New School for Design should have done their basic homework and due-diligence prior to showcasing this as Chelsea Brigante's "genius idea".

  • Jess H.

    This already exists, at least as a tampon replacement. It's called a Diva Cup (hey, I didn't name it), but it only comes in plain silicone (no interesting colors). It's a little awkward to use at first, and you have to be okay with the sight of your own blood, but after a cycles of use it's easy.

  • Sam Spreadborough

    not sure I totally agree about it being non-invasive,but hey,if I could help someone that easily,I would do it every month