Although China technology news usually involves some new online startup or a new manufacturing process, China may also be advancing quite rapidly in medical and biotech fields as well. For both honorable and disturbing reasons, the country undertakes research that literally pushes the scientific and ethical boundaries of modern medicine. A friend of mine started a Stem Cell research company in China specifically because of the obstacles of doing the same research in the US. Perhaps new forms of cloning, contraception, and viral research will also be announced in China in the future. No topic is more controversial but also more important than that of organ transplants. This first global case of a penile transplant (because we all know that re-attachment has been possible for years) brings rise to the ethical and scientific problems of these new advances.

" - In a recent article by W. Hu and colleagues from Guangzhou, China, the first reported case of a penile transplant is described. The report is published in the October 2006 issue of European Urology.

Penile replantation of the amputated penis has been previously described with very good results. The first case of penile transplantation was performed on a 44 year-old man who presented with loss of his penis due to a traumatic accident. He was left with a 1 cm penis and was unable to void standing up and his quality of life was severely affected. He remained in this condition for 8 months prior to the transplant. 

Unfortutely -

"At day 14 post-operatively, because of a severe psychological problem of the recipient and his wife, the transplanted penis was regretfully cut off. The pathological examination showed no sign of rejection.

This report shows the possibility of a successful early experience with a penile transplant. Unfortunately, due to the short post-transplant course, full functional and cosmetic results were not able to be reported. The ethical issues in this case are unlike those seen with any other solid organ transplant and need to be fully considered before performing a procedure such as this. "

Based on this report, it seems that transplant technology has now reached a point where this type of surgery is possible. However, it still shows that we as people will need more time to better understand and accept the ethical and psychological impact that all these new advances in technology will have in our lives.


-frank yu