Hand Transplant Patient's Hands Change Colour in Strange Development
Shreya Siddanagowder, 21, from Pune, India is one of less than 200 people worldwide to have undergone a hand transplant. She was involved in a bus accident in September 2016 that caused the amputation of both her hands.
Rarer still, it was the first inter-gender transplant of its kind in Asia. The hands originally belonged to a 20-year-old man from Kerala, who died in August 2017.
Shreya eventually underwent the operation, after finding a donor blood type compatible, in 2017 at the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) in Kochi.
Taking 13 hours, it was undertaken by a team of 20 surgeons and a 16-strong anaesthesia team and saw the hand attached by the bone, then arteries, veins and tendon muscles, before the skin was stitched to Shreya's upper limb.
Shreya then remained in Kochi for 18 months to undergo intensive physiotherapy, while gradually gaining nerve sensations in the hand.
More recently, the hand has lost some of its weight and started to look more like a natural fit to her body. More surprisingly, the originally dark-coloured hand has lightened in skin tone to match her skin colour.
Other aspects of the hand's gradual change have been more readily explained. An illness last year that caused Shreya to lose 12kg most likely led to the fat loss around the hand - but there's been no scientific research yet into how the hand changed colour.
Dr Subramania Iyer, head of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Amrita Institute, said "This is our first case of male-to-female hand transplant. We can only guess that female hormones have led to the change but assessing the exact cause is difficult."
Plastic surgeon Dr Mohit Sharma, who was part of the transplant team theorised: "In a year or so, the lymphatic channel between the donor's hand and the host's body opens up completely to allow flow of fluids.
"It is possible the Melanin-producing cells slowly replaced the donor's cells. And that led to the change."
It's an exciting development in the transplant world, although the process for recovery remains strenuous.
Even now, Shreya still has one of the three nerves and her finger muscles are still struggling to function fully.
However, with her handwriting now apparently back to normal and further improvement likely, this is a truly remarkable story of human engineering.
Featured Image Credit: Arul Horizon