A man may regain the use of his hand, left paralyzed by a severe road accident, thanks to a pioneering nerve transfer operation from his partly amputated leg, doctors in northern Italy have said.

Surgeons at Turin City Hospital transferred part of the man's sciatic nerve, which controlled the movement of his amputated foot, to his brachial plexus, the network of nerves that connect the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm and hand.

"It's the first time that someone transfers a component of the sciatic nerve to the brachial plexus," said Paolo Titolo, one of the surgeons who performed the operation, in an interview Wednesday.