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Doctors mystified as man's transplanted hands turn female


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Shreya Siddanagowder gestures during an interview with AFP at her home in Pune, more than two years after she had both hands transplanted (AFP Photo/Sanket Wankhade)

Shreya Siddanagowda was involved in a bus accident that crushed both her arms. She underwent a double transplant after they were amputated.CREDIT:AFP


Islamabad: When surgeons offered Shreya Siddanagowder new hands a year after she lost her own in an accident, there was a potential complication. The donor hands matched her blood group, but not only were they much darker than her own skin, they were big, hairy and came from a man.


Hand transplants are rare though, partly because of a lack of donors, and despite the differences Siddanagowda did not hesitate.


Now more than two years after the successful operation, doctors have been baffled by a transformation in the 21-year-old student's new hands, which have changed to match their new owner's arms. The transplanted hands have become dramatically lighter, hairless and more slender.


"I don't know how the transformation occurred," Siddanagowder, from Pune in western India, told The Indian Express.


"But it feels like my own hands now. The skin colour was very dark after the transplant, not that it was ever my concern, but now it matches my tone."


Her mother, Suma, said the donor had been "a tall man with big, spindly fingers". "I see her hand every day. The fingers have become like a woman's. The wrist is smaller. These are remarkable changes."


Doctors who connected the new limbs in a 13-hour procedure admit they are mystified by what has caused the change. Siddanagowder's hormones, a lack of testosterone and a gradual replacement of the original pigment producing cells have all been suggested.


Dr Subramania Iyer, a member of a team of doctors who carried out the operation said the colour of the hands quickly began to show "a lot of change", but that it was difficult to pinpoint why. "It could be because of MSH... a brain-controlled hormone that stimulates melanin production. We are wondering if MSH levels can really influence the skin colour."


Siddanagowder was 18 when her arms were badly smashed in a bus accident. A delay in treatment mean both her arms had to be amputated below the elbow.


Only 200 or so hand transplants have taken place since the first was carried out in the US in 1999. Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences in the southern state of Kerala, carried out the first in India in 2015 and has since become the Asian centre for the procedure.


But donors are difficult to come by because Indian families are reluctant to donate limbs from dead people.


"Usually you have to wait for a long time," said Iyer. As a result, those seeking a transplant "are so desperate that they don't mind if the hands are from a different gender", he told AFP.


A match eventually came up in August 2017, when a male student called Sachin was declared brain-dead after a motorbike accident



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