A 36-year old man who was born without testicles has now obtained one following a transplant operation performed by an international team of surgeons in Belgrade, with the donor being his own twin brother, The New York Times reports.
According to the newspaper, the surgery is only the third such transplant to be performed, with the first two being done about four decades ago in St. Louis, also on identical twins.
Dr. Dicken Ko, transplant surgeon and urology professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, explained that the goal of the procedure was to ensure that the transplant’s recipient gets stable testosterone levels without resorting to injections, along with a possibility to father children someday.
"He’s good, he looks good, his brother looks good", Ko said, adding that both brothers are expected to be able to go home by the weekend, and that the donor should remain fertile despite giving up one of his testicles.
Dr. Branko Bojovic, expert in microsurgery at Harvard Medical School, also noted that the surgery involved sewing together arteries and veins that were less than two millimeters wide, and that the whole procedure was time-sensitive as well.
"Once you remove the testicle from the donor, the clock starts ticking very fast", Bojovic said. "Within two to four hours, you have to have it re-perfused and working again".
The surgeons, however, did not connect the vas deferens – a tube that carries semen from the testicle to the ejaculatory tract – during the procedure, so the man might have to undergo another surgery if he wants to actually sire children.
The newspaper also points out that while this surgery may receive "broader applications for transgender people, accident victims, wounded soldiers and cancer patients," it also "raises questions about the ethics of transplants that are not lifesaving, and about the possibility of recipients’ someday fathering children with sperm from donors who may not even be related to them".