Sunday, January 22, 2012

So I'm playing TF2 last night, when I hear the following question come through my headphones:

If you, like, cut your nipple off, would it grow back, or would it just be a scar?

Luckily for everyone involved, the people I play with are an intelligent group and quickly provided the correct answer to this most peculiar of inquiries.
"No, man, it would just scar over." "Duh, you would have to, like, steal one." "The body doesn't know how to regrow limbs and stuff like that after you're out of your mom's fetus." "'Fetus'?" "I mean uterus. Shut up. You need stem cells." "Oh, so we COULD regrow one now, couldn't we?"
I love you guys, and technically you are correct, but let's look over why you are correct.

"It would just scar over."
If you were to cut off your nipple, and just let it alone, the area would simply scar over. Nipples, in both men and women, are structurally distinct from the rest of your skin; composed of not just skin, but glandular and fatty tissue as well. If you were to cut it off, you'd only grow scar tissue. Nipple removal is actually a practiced type of body modification in certain communities, though it does carry a number of inherent risks. I wouldn't recommend it.

"Duh, you would have to, like, steal one."
Not totally true, but theoretically possible. There are methods, for example, that spare the nipple and allow women to retain them after a mastectomy. It may also be possible to grow pigmented skin cells that can later be transfer to simulate a nipple after you've lost one.

"The body doesn't know how to regrow limbs and shit like that after you're out of your mom's fetus."
This one is REALLY complicated, and could lead to an entire series on fetal development, but today, we're just going to focus on the body part in question. Until you are 6 weeks old, all humans begin development looking the same, it isn't until that point in time that any male-specific characteristics begin to emerge. So, why do men have nipples? Because women do. After 6 weeks, male fetuses (usually) begin producing enough testosterone to halt breast development.  HOWEVER, if you were to cut off a fetus' nipple (you horrible horrible person, you) it still wouldn't grow back. Just as a fetus' ear wouldn't grow back (seriously, what is WRONG with you?), because...

"You need stem cells."
There are 5 types of stem cells you all need to know about.
  1. Totipotent cells can divide to become ANY cell of an organism. Potential-humans are made of totipotent cells until they have become a 16-cell ball. After which the bundle becomes a morula which divides itself into differentiated cells.
  2. Pluripotent cells can turn into all three of three different layers of cells which eventually turn into a fetus. I.e. They can become the endoderm (interior stomach lining, gastrointestinal tract, the lungs), mesoderm (muscle, bone, blood, urogenital), or ectoderm (epidermal tissues and nervous system), but they can't do jack to help you live in the womb.
  3. Multipotent cells can divide indefinitely and can become a number of different cells of the same "type". For example, a blood stem cell can become a red blood cell, or a white blood cell, but it can't become a brain cell. Although, there may be ways to mess with this process.
  4. Olgopotent cells can only divide a couple times, but they still have the potential to turn into different things if you push them. (e.g. Bone marrow stromal cells can turn into bone marrow, cartilage or fat cells.)
  5. Unipotent cells can only turn into one thing. Livers, for example, can regrow themselves because liver cells are unipotent. Liver cells can only be liver cells.
"So we COULD regrow one?"
What's so great about stem cells? They're toti-and-pluri-potent. With the proper techniques and growing environments, you can goad them into becoming what you want them to be, allowing people the chance to grow replacement-bits using their own cells. Ideally, this would mean you could regrow the individual bits of your missing nipple, and put them together to build a new one.

But you know what?

That would be really freaking complicated.

It would be easier to regrow a heart, or an ear. You know, something that is mostly one thing, rather than a structure built of different things. You have to BUILD a nipple.

Sheesh dude. Just don't cut your nipple off. Ok?


  1. VincentJanuary 22, 2012 at 3:35 PM

    This can all be solved by keeping your nipple.

  2. uNCLEsAM098January 22, 2012 at 4:14 PM

    I heard a story back in high school of a fellow student who rode dirt-bikes. He made the genius decision to ride on some dirt piles without a shirt, however he wore a helmet. Smart.

    I remember that he hit a hill, flew into the air and became separated from his bike. His chest rubbed against the ground like a cheese grater, and although I never knew or met the guy, I had heard rumors his stomach/chest was so messed up, he never grew any body hair nor did he have nipples again.

    Whether or not that was true, it lined up with things I had heard about discussions such as yours above, so I believed it... but who knows if it's actually true.

  3. AnonymousJuly 28, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    I enjoyed reading this.

    1. AnonymousAugust 16, 2013 at 10:17 PM

      Haha this was great

  • Scarlett SettleJanuary 14, 2015 at 7:21 AM

    So if I rip my nipple off I can't lick it and stick it back on my boob like a sticker?

  • rustyFebruary 25, 2015 at 2:48 PM

    In Ireland, when a boy cuts his nipple off, a leprachaun jumps out of his chest. Then you bleed gold!

  • AnonymousJuly 8, 2015 at 6:55 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • AnonymousNovember 22, 2015 at 3:27 PM

    K......these are some pretty freaky comments

  • AnonymousNovember 26, 2015 at 9:38 PM

    That made me scared...

  • AnonymousMarch 8, 2016 at 12:35 PM

    My right nipple had to be cut off when I was 24 years old. It did not grow back. I have almost no scar. No a big deal. (I'm a guy.)

  • Noelle HaleApril 3, 2016 at 10:45 PM

    My sister's friend had her/his nipple half ripped off from road rash. Guess that's not coming back.

  • Headset NinjaMay 2, 2016 at 3:32 AM

    Ahem... Once upon a time, I was play fighting with my little brother with my top off. So, my little brother thought it'd be a great idea to BITE MY NIPPLE OFF. There was blood. It was sore. NS. But, eventually, it did grow back. It looks a bit weird, sorta like scarred, but it's still a nipple. It is extremely sensitive though, and it can hurt when I touch it.

  • AnonymousNovember 27, 2017 at 10:34 PM

    I mean I definitely have lost the tip of my nipple to a skateboard accident on pavement and it did indeed grow back. Not sure how it was possible if this discussion is true but I have several friends in my area who witnessed me with no nipple and can say it grew back also.