Also Known As: Orthokine, Regenokine

Orthokine is an experimental medical procedure in which a patient's own blood is extracted, manipulated, and then reintroduced to the body as an anti-inflammatory drug to reduce chronic pain and osteoarthritis.[1][2][3] Known in the United States as Regenokine,[4] the process removes about 2 US fluid ounces (59 ml) of blood from a patient's arm, which is then incubated at a slightly raised temperature.[1][5][6] The liquid is then placed in a centrifuge until its constituent parts are separated. The middle yellowish layer is dense with agents that are believed to stop an arthritic agent known as interleukin-1, which causes degeneration of the joints and the breakdown of cartilage.[1][3][7] That serumis injected into the patient's affected area.[5] The procedure reduces pain and discomfort in the joint.[3] The treatment generally lasts five days, with six shots of the serum into the affected area.[6][8] It is normal for a patient to receive annual injections to ease the joint discomfort.[3]

Orthokine is a patented method developed by molecular biologist Dr. Julio Reinecke and Dr. Peter Wehling, a spinal surgeon in Düsseldorf, Germany.[3][7] A two-year study of osteoarthritis of the knee, published in the medical journalOsteoarthritis and Cartilage, confirmed the safety and effectiveness of the therapy.[9] Orthokine is less invasive than most, if not all, other forms of knee surgeries available.[10] It focuses on treating the inflammation as opposed to mechanical problems in the joints.[8] Orthokine was first approved for widespread use in Germany in 2003.[11] Most patients have reported positive results.[3][9] Orthokine differs from a similar procedure with platelet-rich plasma (PRP), where platelets are targeted instead of the interleukin antagonist.[12] Platelets are thought to speed the healing process. Also, PRP does not require the blood to be heated as Orthokine does.[8] The heating increases the anti-inflammatory proteins as much as 100 times.[6]

As of August 2012, about 60,000 patients worldwide have received the treatment.[11] Americans have traveled to Germany for the treatment, which has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).[1][7] Two offices, one in New York and another in Los Angeles, have licenses to provide a similar treatment, but they cannot advertise due to the lack of FDA approval. Dr. Freddie Fu, a professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, said more high-quality independent trials proving the procedure's effectiveness are needed before the FDA approves.[8] Wehling said the procedure has a 75% success rate and follows all regulations set by the World Anti-Doping Agency.[13] National Basketball Association star Kobe Bryant, who traveled to Germany to have the procedure performed by Wehling, is one famous case based on his recovery from his previously poor knees.[1][3][5] Some basketball fans refer to the procedure as the "Kobe Procedure".[3]

The procedure cost €6,000 (about $7,400) as of July 2012.[8] The treatment is not covered by health insurance. Chris Renna, a preventive medicine specialist who has referred American patients to Wehling since 2003, said that "because of its expense and status, the treatment is for the 1 and 2 percent of our society."[11]

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