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updated 7/28/2010 4:07:24 PM ET 2010-07-28T20:07:24

UCLA is launching a hand transplant program and is seeking amputees to undergo the rare experimental procedure.

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The program announced this week will involve clinical trials to study transplant techniques. It's only the fourth such program in the United States.

Officials at the University of California, Los Angeles say the program could help injured war veterans, among others.

Besides surgical techniques, the program will study the effectiveness and safety of drugs that patients must take to keep their bodies from rejecting their new hands.

French surgeons performed the first successful hand transplant in 1998. Nine have been performed in the U.S.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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