Accidents and trauma-inflicted diseases are inevitable in the world today. With advanced medical technologies and equipment, restorative procedures are much more frequent now. One such reconstructive technique is organ transplantation. Over the decades, the reconstructive surgical methodologies continue to improve, making the lives of accident survivors a lot easier. In the year 2017, the first inter-gender hand transplant took place on an 18-year-old accident survivor. What’s even more surprising is that the transplanted hands have undergone marked feminine transformations over the last few years.
The young girl named Shreya Siddanagowder suffered from a major bus accident, leaving her limbless. Back in 2016 after the accident, the doctors amputated her hands below the elbows. Following this incident, she registered for the hand transplants at the transplant center in Karnataka. A few months later, she received a ray of hope when one of the hand donors’ blood group matched with her. However, the donor was a 21-year-old male with a dark-complexion and thicker masculine arm who died in a road accident. Without thinking twice, the girl agreed to get the transplant done.
This made way for the continent’s first-ever cross-gender hand transplant which turned out to be a successful one. The transplant took place in the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences Transplant Center and lasted for more than 13 hours. Also, it took a team of experts consisting of more than 15 surgeons and anesthesiologists.
Irrespective of the color or size of the arm, the young girl was more than happy. However, the first change took place in the size of her arms after months of expert-guided physiotherapy. She states that her hands gradually became leaner and started looking feminine. Experts like physiotherapist Ketaki suggests that the change in the size might be due to the nervous transformation, popularly known as “reinnervation.” As a result of the new nervous signals, the muscular system adapts to the changes. This leads to a reduction in the muscle diameter as well as adaptation to the host’s nervous system. Overall, this results in a reduction in the size of the transplanted hands.
Another striking transformation was the lightening of the originally darker skin tone belonging to the donor man. Over some time, the girl’s arms became as light as the rest of her skin complexion. According to Dr. Uday Khopkar, Head Dermatologist, one of the most convincing reasons behind this is the lesser production of melanin in her body. Melanin is the hormone produced in the body that controls the pigmentation as well as skin complexion. Since her skin complexion is light, that means her body produces lesser melanin. Gradually, the transplanted hands adapted to the amputee’s melanocyte levels.
Another reason behind this could be the hormonal differences between the two genders. As the level of testosterone decreases, the arm loses hair and becomes more feminine in appearance.
The first cross-gender hand transplant gave hope to the medical fraternity for related advanced procedures. Based on the findings and observations of the transplant surgery, the doctors are willing to publish a research report anytime soon. The premier John Hopkins University states that only around 100 hand transplant surgeries have taken place so far. Out of these, the number of cross-gender transplants is very few. This calls for better research, and the young girl’s transformations might be helpful in future transplants. Currently, the case report is under progress at the Amrita Institue Of Medical Sciences Reconstructive Surgery Department.