- The first penis transplant in the U.S. will be performed sometime this year by surgeons from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, according to a report by The New York Times. The patient, a soldier, was wounded by a bomb detonation in Afghanistan.
- The medical team hopes the new organ will gain full functionality within months after the surgery.
- The procedure is still considered experimental by Johns Hopkins, which has granted the doctors permission to perform 60 transplants.
This new transplant procedure could relieve the pain and mental anguish of soldiers who have suffered injuries to the genitals during military service. As improvised explosive devices became prevalent on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, more and more soldiers sustained genitourinary wounds, or injuries to genitals, bladder, or kidney. According to data reviewed by The Times, 1,367 men in uniform have had genitourinary injuries as a result of combat in both theaters between 2001 and 2013. Many of those injuries resulted in the loss of the penis or testicles. Currently, Johns Hopkins plans to restrict transplants to only patients wounded in combat.
The first transplant will come from a recently deceased donor. The doctors will connect blood vessels and nerves between the injured area of the soldier to the new organ. Within months, the nerves should grow into the transplanted tissue and, if the transplant is successful, the penis will develop urinary and sexual function.
Doctors hope the ability to have children will not be out of the question. Any offspring would carry the father's DNA as only the penis is being transplanted, not the testes.
Last year, doctors in South Africa successfully performed the world's first penis transplant. One other operation had been attempted in China in 2006, but the patient requested the new organ be removed after "psychological rejection." The South African man recently became a father after the transplant.
Transplant recipients have to take drugs which suppress the immune system, so the body does not reject the new tissue. In the case of this solider, the surgeons at Johns Hopkins believe they have found a way to reduce the number of suppressant drugs required, from three to one. This will hopefully minimize the risks to the transplant operation.
If this surgery is successful, it may also open another option for transgender patients who seek gender reassignment.