CHESTERFIELD, Mo. -- Doctors hope that a rare testicle transplant from one man to his identical twin brother will enable the 21-year-old to father children.
In only the third such operation ever performed, doctors last month used microsurgery to transplant the gland from one twin to the other in an effort to restore his hormone and sperm production.
The recipient, who had only one testicle, lost it two years ago because of an athletic injury, doctors said. His first testicle, which was deformed, was removed when he was 9.
The surgical team was led by Dr. Sherman Silber, a world-renowned urologist and reproductive microsurgeon who performed the only two known previous testicle transplants, St. Luke's Hospital announced Thursday.
His first patient received the transplant in 1977 and since has fathered a child, Silber said. Silber himself delivered the baby.
Silber, 44, said reproductive transplants currently are possible only between identical twins because it reduces the chance of rejection.
However, he said he expects to be able to perform testicle transplants between brothers who are not identical twins in the future, perhaps within the next year.
Microsurgery was needed to attach the spermatic artery and vein of the transplant recipient to the donor's testicle. The spermatic artery, which looks like a tiny thread and is only 1/100 of an inch in diameter, is the longest and tiniest blood vessel in the body, Silber said.
It will be months before Silber knows if the operation was a success and Silber said it will probably be three to eight months before the recipient's sperm count and hormone production will be normal.
The family requested the names and place of residence of the twins be withheld.
Silber performed the world's first microsurgical vasectomy reversal in 1975 and has repeated that procedure about 3,000 times.
He also performed the first fallopian tube-ovary transplant in 1984.