Could Blood Heal Damaged Joints?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Some are calling it vampire medicine. Others say a new way to fix life-long injuries could be the next best thing to the fountain of youth.

    An experimental treatment is being tried on patients with knee injuries who want to try and avoid surgery.

    The new treatment does not involved surgery or drugs. It uses the patient's own blood to heal damaged joints. It's already been used for some athletes with injured knees, but no one knows exactly how it works.

    Orthopedic surgeon Brian Cole has begun a research study of the procedure, which is called PRP, for platelet rich plasma.

    He extracts blood from the patient, puts it in a centrifuge, and separates platelets from the rest of the blood. It's the platelets that contain growth factors which might speed the healing of damaged knees.

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    "This isn't pixie dust," said Dr. Cole. "This is basically making patients feel better by some environmental change. It could be the pain pathway. It could be reductions in inflammation. It could be the placebo effect, quite frankly."

    Earlier this year, patient Bob Berland joined the study at Chicago's Rush University Medical Center. He'd overcome a serious knee infection enough to win a silver medal at the 1984 Olympic games. As the years went by, his knee condition worsened and all the sports he'd enjoyed became impossible to perform.

    "At some point, my wife said to me, 'I just want to take a walk with you at some point. You've got to get this fixed,'" explained Berland.

    Because it's a research study, Berland doesn't know if he's getting the real platelets or the standard medication, but after three injections he was able to go skiing this past winter for the first time in years.

    Some have referred to the experimental treatment as Vampire Medicine, but Dr. Cole said while you won't become younger after the treatments, you may feel like you're young again.

    "It cannot reverse the consequences of aging, but perhaps reverse what happens as the consequence of aging," he said.