Indian woman had her hands transplanted: the donor was a dark-skinned guy

Even the experienced doctors were surprised to learn this

When this young girl with amputated hands was offered large and thick-haired arms from a male donor, she immediately agreed, after all, they had to wait more than a year. But what happened to the hands after the transplant surprised even experienced doctors.

Shreya Siddanagauder will never forget this day. In October 2016, the 18-year-old student was traveling by bus from Pune to Manipal and got into a terrible accident that crippled both her hands so much that they had to be amputated at the elbow. After the Indian woman was discharged from the hospital, life had to start anew. But Shreya’s parents could not accept the fate of their daughter and put her on the waiting list for a donor limb transplant. They had to wait for them for more than a year.

Finding a donor in India is a big problem. Due to cultural and religious peculiarities, the relatives of the deceased refuse to donate their body parts, believing that they will still be useful to them after death.

Finally, in August 2017, the Siddanagauder family was informed that a donor was found. It was 20-year-old student Sachin, who crashed on a motorcycle. The guy spent a lot of time in the sun and did sports, so his hands were significantly larger and darker than Shreya’s. But the girl had no other chance.

The operation lasted more than 13 hours. First, the doctors connected the bones, and then proceeded to stitch the tendons, nerve endings, blood vessels and skin. This was followed by several more operations and a year of physiotherapy, which helped the girl’s brain and body understand how to use the new hands, and also returned sensitivity and mobility to someone else’s limbs.

According to Shreya, in the first months she was embarrassed to go out without covering her hands. People were constantly looking at her. But the girl learned to ignore sidelong glances, otherwise she would not be able to live. Donor limbs have given her a chance to return to the old life, and most importantly, to study in college.

In total, about 200 successful donor limb transplants have been performed in the world. There are nine of them in India (Shreya became the first recipient). For the first time, a donor limb was transplanted in the USA in 1999. The patient was a man whose left arm was torn off by fireworks.

After the donor hands finally “took root”, incredible changes began to occur in them. The skin became much lighter, less hair began to grow on it, and in general the limbs began to look more feminine. This change puzzled the doctors who performed Shreya’s operation. Experts suggested that the skin in the transplanted limbs began to lose its natural pigment due to a decrease in melanocyte-stimulating hormones (the girl with light skin has fewer of them than the dark-skinned guy)

Doctors tried to explain the decrease in hair growth on the hands. So, most likely, this is due to the level of testosterone, a male sex hormone present in the female body only in minimal amounts.

Shreya is glad of the changes, because the transplanted hands now almost do not differ from her own – even the fingers have become smaller and more elegant. The girl has long been doing manicure on nails that once belonged to a man, and wears jewelry.

Sensitivity and mobility in the donor limbs were restored by more than 90%. The student is attending college again and recently successfully passed a written exam with her “new” hands. And for her attending physician Subramania Iyer, the best confirmation of the successful operation was a birthday card signed by Shreya herself.

Do you believe that scientists will be able to transplant any part of the body in the future?

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