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Doctors baffled by transplant patient’s new hands changing color

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Doctors baffled by transplant patient’s new hands changing color

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Doctors in India have recently been scratching their heads after a hand transplant patient’s new hands appear to have turned the same color as the rest of her skin.

Shreya Siddanagowda received a double hand transplant in 2017, aged just 19 years old at the time, at Amrita Hospital in Kerala after she was involved in a bus accident that resulted in the amputation of both her hands. She received the hands and forearms, just above the elbow, of a recently deceased male. Aside from the minor problem of the hands being a slightly darker skin tone to the rest of her body, the transplant was an outstanding success. 

What has happened now?

Now 21, Siddanagowda’s hands have reportedly turned lighter to match the rest of her skin tone, The Indian Express newspaper reports. Her doctors remain unsure how this happened since similar cases are few and far between. However, they’re keeping a close eye on Siddanagowda’s case and hope to include it in an upcoming paper. Their current suspicion is that it’s associated with the production of melanin, the natural pigment that gives human skin and hair their color. Alternatively, it could just be the donor hand “naturally” changing color over time. 

Hand transplants, a rarity in themselves

Fewer than 100 hand transplants have been reported worldwide in the past 25 years and only nine cases where the transplant includes parts of the upper arm, so there’s not a huge wealth of information on the topic. This operation was also from a male-to-female donor transplant, which the surgeons say could further complicate the issue. The first semi-successful operation was completed in 1998 on Clint Hallam, a man in New Zealand who lost his hand in a saw accident in prison. It was eventually amputated after Hallam stopped taking immunosuppressive drugs while on the run from police for his involvement in another scam.

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