Regenerative medicine, a great option for orthopedic conditions
BY MERCY RAMOS, PHOTOS: JOSÉ (TITO) MERIÑO
Regenerative medicine is currently a great option for the treatment of different orthopedic conditions because, in addition to improving the quality of life of people suffering from these ailments, it avoids the need to undergo surgery.
In Cuba, this type of treatment was started around 2004 by Doctor in Science Porfirio Hernández Ramírez, a scientist, and it is mainly based on the application of autologous stem cells (the individual’s own), a procedure that is carried out at the “Dr. José Manuel Ballester Santovenia” Institute of Hematology and Immunology.
In an interview with CubaPLUS Magazine, Dr. Alberto Verdura Trujillo, First Degree Specialist in Orthopedics and Traumatology at that institution, explained at length what these procedures consist of, which see positive results in an estimated 85% of the patients treated.
“We apply regenerative medicine treatments in orthopedic conditions, specifically in bone-degenerative diseases, such as joint osteoarthritis. Especially in load-bearing ones, which are the most affected: the hips, knees, and ankles. The shoulder, elbows and wrists, while not load-bearing, have great mobility,” he explained.
At present, he explained, we apply three types of procedures to patients, which, while different, have the same purpose: to improve the patient’s quality of life.
These therapies, Dr. Verdura Trujillo continued, include that which is applied through the use of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC); the application of platelet-rich plasma (PRP), after platelet lysate (PL), for the repair of damaged tissue; and the last one is through the application of very small embryoniclike stem cells (VSEL).
In general, all three therapies require rest in one form or another, followed by physical therapy. During this process, the patient is evaluated from time to time and it is estimated that from three months is when improvement is really seen, although there are people who already have some relief after 15 days, he said.
The specialist considers that the effectiveness of the treatments used is related to the degree of the condition and the age of the patients. Younger people have better evolution and, for the most part, mild to moderate cases.
“It is important to point out that regenerative therapy has a big impact on a patient’s quality of life, it achieves a decrease in pain and improves people’s functional ability, vitality, social function and mentality, reincorporating them into social and working life. It is a therapeutic alternative that increases the medical arsenal when treating osteoarthrosis of the knees,” he concluded.
What patients say
For Dominic Soave, a Canadian resident in Cuba, the treatment received at the Institute of Hematology and Immunology has been extremely important, because before undergoing the stem cell transplant he had a lot of difficulty and pain in both shoulders that limited him in the movement of his arms, especially when sleeping and playing tennis, a sport he likes to practice almost every day.
After the therapy, a little over a month ago, he feels much better, less sore, and says he is "very grateful to the Cuban health system for giving me the opportunity to receive this treatment, which has given me back the possibility of moving my arms almost as before I suffered from the disease in my joints."
For her part, young Yudiana Rosa Frómeta, who received the VSEL embryonic-like stem cell therapy about a month ago, feels happy to live in a country where health is a citizen's right.
"Before receiving the implant, she explained, my shoulders and hands were very sore and now I have improved a lot, the discomfort has almost completely disappeared and I hope to be able to touch my back, one of the difficulties I had, as I used to be able to do."
Finally, the closest testimony is that of this journalist, who spends 10 to 12 hours a day working in front of the computer and could barely move her right arm -the dominant one for the mouse- due to strong pain in her shoulder.
"I received the platelet-rich plasma treatment, in three sessions with an interval of 15 days, and today, after only three months, I have the satisfaction of being able to move my arm normally without any pain, and work on my computer as usual, thanks to the Cuban doctors."