For years, those who have been stopped in their tracks by arthritis or soft-tissue injuries had limited treatment options besides major surgery. Now, a quickly growing field that uses the body’s own cells to foster healing may be the answer.
Enter regenerative medicine, or orthobiologics, a therapy in which the body is provided with the means to heal itself. And enter Ryan Kruse, MD (18F), who leads the burgeoning regenerative medicine program at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics.
The program’s primary mission is to fill a treatment void, according to Kruse.
“We’ve had these standard treatments—such as physical therapy, steroid or gel injections, anti-inflammatories, bracing, and weight loss—for a long time,” says Kruse, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation. “When those are no longer effective, the only thing left is surgery. Many patients don’t want surgery, aren’t ready for surgery, or aren’t candidates for surgery. That leads to a massive number of patients that are told they have no other options.
Only evidence-based practice in Iowa
Kruse returned to Iowa in August 2019, in part to build its regenerative medicine program. The opportunity was ideal for Kruse, who previously had been a sports medicine fellow at the UI for a year after doing his residency training at the Mayo Clinic from 2014 to 2017.
“When I was at Mayo, I had a rather robust regenerative medicine training,” says Kruse, whose work is part of UI Sports Medicine. “So, I’ve always had a significant interest in and passion for regenerative medicine. When I came back to Iowa, one of the initiatives I was tasked with was to start and grow this regenerative medicine practice. It’s perfect. From day one, the university said, ‘How can we help you?’ They’ve really supported this whole initiative.”
Because it’s embedded in a major academic institution, the UI program has the ability to advance as quickly as the field itself. In fact, it can play a role in driving that growth.