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Stellenbosch University
They made the breakthrough.
THE GIFT OF LIFE

The recipient of the world’s first successful penis transplant is going to be a father

By Akshat Rathi

The South African man who received the world’s first—and so far, only—successful penis transplant is set to become a father. The breakthrough surgery was performed just three months ago, and the new announcement makes the procedure an even bigger success.

Despite a successful surgery, many things could have gone wrong. The organ needed not just to function properly for urinary and reproductive purposes, but must be accepted psychologically by the recipient. A previous attempt at a penis transplant in 2006 was reversed because of psychological issues.

Additionally, immune-suppressing drugs could have reduced sperm count. Such drugs are necessary to ensure that the body does not reject the transplant as a foreign object. But, fortunately, this potential side-effect wasn’t an issue.

The 21-year-old recipient lost his penis after a botched circumcision three years ago. The practice of adult circumcision among the members of the Xhosa ethnic group, combined with poor sanitation, results in some 250 penis amputations every year in South Africa.

The research team behind the surgery, led by professor André van der Merwe at Stellenbosch University, continue to monitor their former patient, looking for improvements that can be made for future operations, which could take place as early as mid-August. So far, all the signs are good.

Akshat Rathi
Senior reporter
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