The curious collection of a slightly mad scientist
A South African man who received the world’s first successful penis transplant is to become a father just months after undergoing surgery, his doctor said Friday.
Urologist Andre van der Merwe, who led the team that performed the operation, told AFP that the 21-year-old’s girlfriend was pregnant.
“I was informed by him that his partner is about four months pregnant,” said Van der Merwe, who is based at Stellenbosch University.
“We are happy that there were no complications and his penis is functioning well,” Van der Merwe told AFP.
“There was nothing preventing him from having children because his sperm wasn’t affected.”
Van der Merwe has previously admitted surprise at the speed of the man’s recovery of sexual function however, saying the original goal was that “he would be fully functional at two years”.
The man, whose identity has not been revealed, received his new penis from an organ donor in a nine-hour operation on December 11 at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town.
His own penis had to be amputated three years previously after a botched traditional circumcision.
The procedure, which often leads to deadly complications, is performed on boys and young men as a rite of passage to adulthood in some rural parts of South Africa.
Van der Merwe said his team had been inundated with requests from men who have had similar amputations but could not take everyone.
“Right now we have about nine people on our programme,” he said, pointing out that finding penis donors would be one of the challenges, as is the case with any other organ.
“I don’t think it would be easy but I believe people will now come forward because of this positive case,” he said.
This penis replacement team should join Dr. Atala and get the replacement members from people’s own stem cells:
“Dr. Anthony Atala, a urological surgeon and professor of regenerative medicine at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in North Carolina, has developed a method uses the patient’s own phallic cells to make a new penis.
“The phallus is actually much longer than you think,” he explained to The Guardian. “It goes all the way behind the pelvis, so no matter the extent of the damage, there is a high probability that there are salvageable cells.” …
Atala says organ regeneration is necessary as fewer organs are harvested for donation. He has had success with engineered bladders and vaginas, but the penis’s structure proved complex — until he thought to scrub a donor penis of its donor cells.
“You’re left with a mostly collagen scaffold — a skeleton if you like, that looks and feels just like the organ,” James Yoo, one of Atala’s collaborators at the institute, explained to The Guardian. “Think of it like a building. If you remove all the furniture and the people, you’re still left with the main structure of the building. Then you replace the tenants with new ones. That’s the whole idea. It’s just that the building is a penis and the tenants are cells.”
Atala can then insert the patient’s own cells and transplant it.
So far, he’s made six lab penises and is awaiting approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration so his team can begin implanting them. It should be within the next five years, he said. But first they imagine doing partial transplants — making smaller portions of the penis to help men with erectile dysfunction. …