New treatment uses patient's own cells to give relief for arthritis pain

MARINA DEL REY, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- People who live with the pain of arthritis know how debilitating it can be. But now, a new treatment - which uses the body's own cells - may finally provide some relief.

For 52-year-old Alfred Robinson, it's welcome news. Years of weight lifting has caused wear and tear in his joints. He's hoping his own blood will help him get rid of his acute shoulder pain.

Robinson described it as "a stabbing, very uncomfortable pain. Especially in the morning."

But since he doesn't want surgery, Robinson tried a new injectable treatment called "Alpha Mac."

Dr. Akash Bajaj, an orthopedist and pain specialist in Marina Del Rey, explained how it works.

"Alpha Mac or Alpha 2 Macro-Globulin is a protease inhibitor. Basically what that means is instead of combating inflammation once it's occurred, we are eliminating the inflammatory reaction from occurring in the first place," he said.

He explained that Inflammation causes the pain, but the Alpha Mac stops the process. And he's seeing success in his practice.

"We've been able to have success in shoulders, spine, so low back pain, neck pain. Hips. Ankles. Knees - everywhere," he said.

The patient's blood is placed in a centrifuge, where it's separated out. Then, using live imaging, Bajaj injects it into the area of pain.

It takes about an hour, and the outpatient procedure is similar to its popular sister treatment called "PRP." But doctors point out Alpha Mac is different.

"It's not regenerative in nature. It's simply to eliminate or mitigate the inflammatory issues," Bajaj said.

Side effects are rare since patients use their own blood. Right now, the treatment is approved for investigational use, but more and more doctors are using it to help their patients with arthritis.

It's important to keep in mind that this procedure is only for patients with osteoarthritis, often called "wear and tear" arthritis. Those with rheumatoid arthritis aren't candidates.

Previous studies have shown Alpha Mac to be effective in diminishing inflammation. It's not yet covered by insurance. The approximate cost: about $3,000 per treatment.

How many sessions depends on the patient, but those with chronic pain will likely need more than one treatment. For acute injuries, one procedure may be enough. Doctors said people usually feel relief within a week.

Robinson said he's grateful for something that will help ease the pain - without surgery.

"It's about finding the fountain of youth, in my opinion," he said.
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