Oleksiy Shershniov, CEO of the Ilaya clinic, shows an X-ray to patient Roman Zhuravel, who was wounded in Russia’s war against the Donbas. He is one of 25 soldiers whom Biotech Rehabilitation has treated with stem cells, which regenerate bones, muscles and skin.
When the first Ukrainian soldiers were injured in Russia’s war against Ukraine, Kyiv orthopedist Volodymyr Oksymets knew his knowledge in treating traumas will soon become useful.
So in August 2014 Oksymets, who has experience in treating Soviet-Afghan war veterans, paired with Ilaya medical clinic and launched Biotech Rehabilitation – a project that helps Ukrainian soldiers regenerate bones, muscles and skin using an innovative technique involving stem cells.
The technique that grows new tissues from a person’s own cells to replace traumatized bones or skin is certified and used in the United States, according to the Ilaya clinic CEO Oleksiy Shershniov.
Ilaya has been applying the technique to paying patients, while the Biotech Rehabilitation initiative raises money to help the wounded soldiers for free. So far the clinic has grown new tissues for 60 paid patients and 25 soldiers.
Building the lab cost the clinic $3.5 million in 2012. For one soldier, the clinic grew a 15-centimeter bone, a proud achievement a for the group “In traditional medicine he would have had an amputation,” Shershniov says.
Oleksandr Pidkolany, a military vehicle driver, had refused to have his ankle amputated four times and went through 19 surgeries. Biotech restored his foot and today Pidkolany can walk again.
The technology of restoring a bone is enabled by the natural abilities of stem cells, which can change into specialized cell types. This cellular material is stored in bone marrow and body fat.
The peculiarity of these cells is that they restore vessels and muscles around the bone. “These cells are universal – they know what to do by themselves,” Shershniov says.
To grow new tissue, doctors take a sample of the patient’s cells and multiply them in a sterile laboratory designed to boost cell growth.
After the cells are multiplied, surgeons insert bone plates as a framework in the place of a missing bone to shape its future replacement. Then this frame is populated with cells from the lab, which begin to transform into bone cells.
It takes six months to multiply the cells, implant them into the wound, and regenerate a bone. A sample test of the regenerated bone is identical with the patient’s natural bones, and only an X-ray can show there was an intrusion.
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