After 21-year-old student Shreya Siddanagowda lost both her hands in a bus crash she was delighted to be offered the chance of a double hand transplant.
The one problem, her doctors told her, that the only compatible donor available was a man.
Donors are rare in India because families of the deceased are superstitious about donating limbs.
After a complex 13-hour surgery, Shreya was left with hands that were large, hairy, and a couple of shades darker than her own skin.
But, in the two years since the pioneering surgery, the new hands have come to match Shreya’s own skin tone and proportions.
Doctors have been unable to explain the transformation.
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Shreya's mother, Suma, said the donor was “a tall man with big, spindly fingers”.
But, she says, things are changing: “I see her hand every day. The fingers have become like a woman’s, the wrist is smaller.
"These are remarkable changes.”
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Subramania Iyer, one of the doctors who performed Shreya’s surgery said the changes in the new hands were hard to explain.
"It could be because of MSH,” she speculated, “a brain-controlled hormone that stimulates melanin production.
"We are wondering if MSH levels can really influence the skin colour.”
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“I don’t know how the transformation occurred,” Shreya told Indian Express. “But it feels like my own hands now. The skin colour was very dark after the transplant, not that it was ever my concern, but now it matches my tone.”
After the transplant, Shreya needed intensive physiotherapy to help her body integrate the new nerves and muscles.
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But she has made amazing progress, even managing to write her most recent college exam papers by hand.
“We all feel very happy for her,” says Dr Iyer. “The best moment was when she sent me a hand-written note on my birthday. I could not have asked for a better birthday gift.”
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