A boy from the Iraqi city of Dahuk, whom doctors examined for the first time at the age of three months, turned out to be the owner of three penises, reports LiveScence. This condition, which has never been seen in humans before, is called triphallia: during embryonic development, the child has formed three phalluses. One of them was in its usual place, and two "supernumerary" ones were small protrusions at the base of the penis and scrotum. They contained erectile tissue called the corpus cavernosum, which fills with blood during arousal, and tissue called the corpus spongiosum, which helps support the urethra. However, the child did not have any extra urethras. This made it easier for surgeons who removed unneeded organs. A year after the operation, the boy was fine.
The reason why extra penises arise is unknown. Doctors at the University of St. Louis, who work with donor organs, recall one of their donors who died at 84 years old, who was found to have diphallia: a man had two full-fledged phalluses with an urethral opening between them. He had two children, but it is not known whether they were his biological children, or whether reproductive technology was required for their birth. Scientists have conducted genetic testing to find out the reason for this developmental feature. They found several mutations in genes involved in the development of the reproductive organs, including genes that promote the formation of cilia in embryonic cells. These cilia are important for the development of the embryo, abnormalities in their genes have been observed in other cases of congenital anomalies, for example, with the so-called transposition of internal organs, when they have a mirror arrangement compared to the usual one. The researchers also found mutations in genes involved in androgen receptors, hormones that have masculinizing effects.
The doctors who treated the Iraqi child found nothing in the family history that could cause a congenital anomaly, such as exposure to drugs or chemicals during pregnancy. The boy was perfectly healthy. He only had a small accumulation of fluid in his scrotum, but in infants this is a common and easily treatable condition.
The study is published in the International Journal of Surgery Case Reports.