After the recommendation by his friend Kobe Bryant, Alex Rodriquez of the New York Yankees flew to Germany to undergo a new knee surgery treatment known as Orthokine.
What Is Orthokine?
Orthokine is a therapy much like platelet-rich plasma in that both procedures draw blood from the athlete and then re-inject it back after treating the blood. But the comparisons stop there.
PRP takes 20 ccs of blood, spins that in a centrifuge to get a concentrated serum of PRP. That serum is then injected back into the patient’s body. The entire procedure is an office visit that usually takes less than an hour.
(See the Ultimate Guide to Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy for a comprehensive understanding of PRP treatment.)
Orthokine, on the other hand, incubates the blood drawn to get a concentrate of what is known as the anti-IL1. This is the body’s natural anti-inflammatory protein. This agent is produced by blood cells that protect the cartilege and keeps the pro-inflammatory protein IL1 in check.
The German company behind the treatment on their website states:
The Orthokin®-Therapy is a unique way to treat osteoarthritis and back pain biologicaly, without the use of any foreign substances. The Orthokine®-Therapy uses individual autologous proteins derived from the patients blood, then applied as a medication. This kind of therapy is a complete autologous form of treatment.
By the way, “autologous” means the donor and the patient of a blood transfusion are the same person.
What Causes Arthritis?
Interleukin-1 (IL-1) is the protein thought responsible for arthiritis. This protein is helpful when it comes to rallying other parts of the body to protect against infection or other damage, allowing the body to repair itself.
However, it goes rogue and can trigger inflamation that leads to degenration and breakdown of cartilege.
Rodriquez had to get the permission of both the Yankees and the MLB before having the procedure done. Although it isn’t necessary illegal in the U.S. or Canada, but neither countries have approved of its use. In fact, the World Anti-Doping Agency nor the MLB consider it a banned substance like blood doping.
Whether it works or not is up for debate. Kobe Bryant swears by it. More case studies need to be done to be able to determine the efficacy of Orthokine.
Dr. Rick Lehman is a distinguished orthopedic surgeon in St. Louis, Missouri and an articular cartilage reconstruction pioneer. He owns U. S. Sports Medicine in Kirkwood, MO, and LehmanHealth. Learn more about Dr. Rick.