The reason that Kobe Bryant is having such a good season for the Lakers may be the 34-year-old's experimental Regenokine treatment on his arthritic right knee in Germany. Grantland digs in to the treatment in a long piece that explains some of the the science behind using a patient's own blood to promote healing of injuries.
The procedure begins with the removal of a small cup of blood from a patient, which is then incubated at a slightly elevated temperature. (The goal is to give the blood a fever.) The liquid is then spun in a centrifuge until it's separated into its constituent parts. The heavy red blood cells accumulate in the bottom layer, a layer of crimson crud at the bottom of the plastic tube. The relevant fluid is the middle yellowish layer — it looks like viscous urine — which is dense with agents that, at least in theory, can accelerate the natural healing mechanisms of the body....
The reason Kobe, A-Rod, and other athletes travel to Germany for their biologic treatments involves a vague FDA regulation that mandates that all human tissues (such as blood and bone marrow) can only be "minimally manipulated," or else they are classified as a drug and subject to much stricter governmental regulations.
Of course, it's still far too soon to know if Kobe has found a cure for his broken down knee. (He has yet to find a cure for his ball hogging or for his current shin injury, which can't be treated using biologic medicine.) Perhaps the reduction in pain and inflammation is real. Perhaps we are on the cusp of a revolution in sports medicine, in which superstars find a way to extend their careers. Or maybe the injection of spun blood is just an elaborate placebo, a high-tech gimmick that tricks the brain into disbelieving the laments of the body.
But sports stars can't wait for the truth to accumulate; clinical trials take way too long. Their clock is ticking.
I like the way Grantland footnotes certain facts and explanations over to the right margin. Nice use of the web format.