It’s In The Blood

Two doctors in Spain have sparked a quiet revolution in the world of surgery. Medicine will never be the same again.

By Judith Stapleton

guy stretching

Finally, there is something to celebrate in Spain! Even as unemployment statistics grind on, crushing a whole generation of educated young adults, and Princess Christina and her husband are back in court on charges ranging from tax fraud to embezzlement, there is a powerful heartbeat coming from a part of the country that doesn’t actually consider itself Spanish: the Basque Country.

The very heart of the Basque Country of Northern Spain is its small, lovely, ancient capital, Vitoria-Gasteiz, and for more than 800 years its lifeblood has been the fierce survival instinct and ingenuity of the Basque people.

You will not find the blood of the bull-ring here, though the Medieval paving stones of the Old Town have been washed many times with the blood of human battles, not least from the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s subsequent repression of Basque language, culture and education.

Today, and for the last two decades, the key relevance of human blood here in this green and pleasant city is the revelation of its innate healing power, and this is not a metaphor; it is a revolution in medicine.

“The recipe is not secret, and any physician can learn to incorporate this procedure as part of a surgeon’s toolkit.”

Biological ingredients that come from our own (“auto-“) bodies, which are then reintroduced at a particular site where cells have broken down from injury or some kinds of disease, are called “autologous,” and one of the greatest advantages of using such ingredients is the avoidance of rejection. When tissue from donors is introduced to repair damaged tissue in an unrelated patient, a lifetime of medication is required, and the possibility of rejection always exists. This is never the case when autologous injections are used.

Another great advantage of this kind of do it yourself healing process is the lower cost which results from the absence of “Big Pharma” involvement. The recipe is not secret, and any physician can learn to incorporate this procedure as part of a surgeon’s toolkit.

The two medical doctors who have pioneered research into the innovative use of autologous blood treatment in tissue repair and regeneration are Eduardo Anitua, an Orthodontic Surgeon by training, and Mikel Sanchez, an Orthopaedic Surgeon.

Based on long careers in surgical interventions and fuelled by native ingenuity, Anitua and Sanchez have drawn on intuitions about the innate constructive power of blood proteins, known as “growth factors,” and incrementally, over the years in their separate fields, these friends in life and medicine have tested the protocols for processing autologous blood ingredients, and the various human tissues in which such self-healing techniques prove effective.

Back in 1999, Anitua published impressive results in the Journal of Maxillofacial Implantology in which he used a patient’s own blood growth factors (Plasma rich Growth Factors, or PRGF) to expedite and improve healing in dental surgery. The results would resonate throughout the field of oral medicine.

Since then, PRGF has been tested in other tissues of the body with remarkable success, and Anitua and Sanchez have co-authored hundreds of medical journal articles on their work. In bone, ligament, tendon, and muscle, this concentration of blood ingredients (PRGF) can act like stem cells in damaged tissue. By working in conjunction with the immune system to reduce inflammation, and by harvesting healthy cells from surrounding tissue, these proteins can repair the damage and permit growth of new tissue. In bone fracture, for example, regeneration of bone can mean the complete absence of scar tissue and pain.

This is the market’s first 100% autologous (self-supplied) technology!

With a fast and simple protocol of a single centrifugation (spinning in an expensive blender) for 8 minutes at room temperature, and a strategic removal of one of the blood elements that interferes with the process, leucocytes, the powerful bacteria-inhibiting properties of the growth factors (proteins) in our blood can be strategically redirected into the damage site to heal venous ulcers, bone fractures, injuries in muscle, ligament, tendon, joints, diabetes-related ulcers, burns and lesions of the skin, and even to promote regeneration of aged skin.

The basic rationale is to mimic the natural process of healing that is the result of the very evolutionary processes that have made us who we are. Healthy blood already contains survival mechanisms to help the body deal with the inevitable traumas of life. This procedure brings to the injury site a set of molecules that will accelerate the functional recovery of tissue and, beyond a mere repair with scar tissue, actually try to regenerate the tissue itself. In the last decade and a half of this technology’s application, no adverse side effects have been reported.

“This procedure brings to the injury site a set of molecules that will accelerate the  functional recovery of tissue.”

In 2012, Anitua and Sanchez published a textbook for Orthopaedic surgeons, rich in diagrams and graphics as well as arthroscopic (tiny camera scope) imaging of surgical procedures, delineating not only the protocol for collecting the blood sample, but showing the whole surgical procedure, and the patient response over time. At this date, alas, the text is only available in Spanish. However, a complete overview of the hospital, Biotechnology Institute, and its services can be found at: http://bti-biotechnologyinstitute.com/

Among the patients noted in the text who have benefited from this procedure are King Juan Carlos of Spain, (retired), and many elite athletes, including Rafael Nadal, Tennis Champion, Joseph Beloki, Tour de France bike racer, Luis Scola, NBA (Toronto Raptors), Fernando Llorente, (aka “El Rey Leon”), striker for Seville FC, Pablo Prigioni, NBA, (point guard LA Clippers), Andres Nocioni, Olympian, currently playing for Real Madrid in the Spanish League, and Vitoria-Gastiez homeboy, Martin Fiz Martin, long-distance runner, (competed in three consecutive Summer Olympics for Spain).

But there are thousands of people from all walks of life who are walking pain-free now because this procedure has given them a new lease on life. Until it comes to a North American city near you, this may be another good reason to discover the heart of the Basque Country.