Christmas this year was a calling to thousands of NBA fans that, yes, there is going to be a season. During the Lakers vs. Bulls games the commentator began discussing Kobe’s knee treatment. The procedure involved centrifuging the patients blood and using the serum as an anti-inflammatory drug. Tracy McGrady reportedly recommended the therapy to Kobe who has now passed the knowledge on to Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees. Even before the season began I remember Derek Fisher mentioning that Kobe’s knee was better than ever. I’ve been wondering how the procedure works since the game, so lets take a look at it.
Orthokine therapy was designed by Dr. Peter Wehling of Dusseldorf, Germany. He has treated numerous influential figures including Pope John Paul III (guess the holy powers didn’t work to well here). Dr. Wehling has reported a 90% success rate for the procedure, and proclaims it is a long term cure to inflammation and its resulting pain. To ESPN he reported “I am the only one to have found a way to cure arthiritis.” Along with his clinic in Germany, Wehling has also opened an outpost in Los Angeles, where he deals with ” a very small and exclusive clientele.” So how exactly does the procedure work? Well here we go.
The therapy focuses primarily on Interleukin-1. IL-1 plays a part in a wide variety of metabolic processes, specifically in immune and inflammatory response. IL-1 binds to specific cytokine receptors to induce inflammation. It is also known to play a role in disc degeneration, osteoarthritis, and the breakdown of the cartilage in joints. Thus the doctor’s focus was to stop this receptor mediated pathway via an antagonist protein. IL-1RA was that antagonist. The protein is produced by white blood cells (monocytes) and blocks Il-1 from binding to its receptor to significantly reduce inflammation. In Dr. Wehlings procedure blood is drawn from the arm by a special syringe in which glass beads induce monocytes to increase the growth of Il-1RA by up to 30x. The solution is placed in an incubator to further induce protein synthesis and the final solution is centrifuged so that the serum of interest may be separated. The final solution is injected into the area of interest, and it seems to be working pretty well, at least for Kobe Bryant.
Hopefully the technique is further developed and can become more widely used as a potent solution for the problems caused by osteoarthritis, something many of us will face one day, unfortunately.