The Most Weird & Wonderful Transplants

Video highlights from Breakthrough

With science always evolving, we’ve been able to perform some amazing transplants in the last century – and there’s more to come.

Despite attempts since the early 1800s, it wasn’t until 1905 that the first successful corneal transplant – and first ever human-to-human transplant – was conducted in Moravia (now the Czech Republic) in 1905.

The first penis transplant was conducted in 2006 in China. While the surgery was successful, the organ was removed 15 days later due to the psychological distress suffered by the patient and his wife.

The patient had lost his penis in an accident, leaving him unable to urinate or have sex.

When doctors discovered that a 5-year-old patient had a massive tumour stretching throughout her abdomen, they decided the only way to save her was to remove the tumour and all the affected organs at once.

The young girl received a new liver, spleen, stomach, small intestine, pancreas and part of an esophagus.

If you ever lose a thumb, your body already has a near perfect replacement – your big toe! The first toe-to-thumb surgery was performed in England in 1968 and since then many similar surgeries have been conducted successfully.

Your big toe’s most important use is for balance, so after surgery patients must learn to re-balance and walk on the balls of their feet rather than big toes.

A Russian computer scientist has volunteered for the world’s first head transplant scheduled for 2017, but the plan is extremely controversial. The operation, to be carried out in China, is expected to cost US$11 million and take 36 hours.

Another exciting development is the advent of 3D printers. Although surgeons are already using 3D-printed metal and plastic implants to replace bones, they’re now hoping to print organs using cells as 'ink'.

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