PHOTOS: ANABEL DÍAZ MENA
The International Center for Neurological Restoration in Havana, renowned for its comprehensive approach to rehabilitating patients suffering from neurological injuries and disease, prides itself on the recognition it receives from the scientific community and patients’ appreciation for its work over the last 25 years.
He recalled its creation as an initiative of the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, reiterating that it was the first, and remains, the only Institution in the world which provides an intensive restoration program (7 days a week) designed to treat the effects of neurodegenerative disease.
The center’s excellence is due to its expert specialists and the dedication of all staff - who work with multidiscipline teams under the direction of neurological experts - to their noble efforts in treating patients.
CIREN, linked with the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP), has two important treatment programs; Neurological Restoration and General Biological Restoration (Rebioger).
The other four clinics provide treatment for spinal and neuromuscular conditions, brain diseases, head injuries and cerebral palsy in infants.
The General Biological Restoration program, designed for healthy or seemingly healthy people over the age of 30, is working on treatments to combat the various effects of oxidative stress, for which CIREN has already developed a number of products.
The use of advanced technologies and the creation of CIREN developed products that are available to the population through the nationl heath system and independent purchase is another of this prestigious center’s missions.
100% Cuban surgical technology
The technology includes a Stereotactic macro (Estereoflex) – developed by CIREN and the Imunoassay Center (CIE) – which is fitted on the patient’s head to allow the surgery to be performed, as well as Cuban software for three dimensional surgery, recording of neural activity and vascular neurosurgery.
The use of this Cuban developed technology has enabled doctors to perform surgery to treat patients in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s (stage 4 and 5); those with reoccurring tumors, intracranial vascular malformations, epilepsy and others.
Dr. Villa Acosta pointed out that, this new technology has been used to treat 970 patients - both Cuban and from abroad - suffering from Parkinson’s and epilepsy. She also mentioned that the country has thirteen centers in Cienfuegos, Villa Clara, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba, equipped with the necessary technology, tools and personnel to carry out the surgeries.
Innovative surgical technique to treat Parkinson’s
It should be emphasized that this new surgical technique is a completely Cuban creation developed at CIREN. This global innovation, described as selective subtalamotomy, is the first technique of its kind developed to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. It involves "injuring" a neuronal structure, the sublamatic nucleus, to reduce the effects of the illness.
In addition to using the most modern pharmacology, CIREN also has cutting edge equipment to treat Parkinson’s which is continually being perfected.
The results of this new technique and other surgeries have been published in world renowned specialist magazines; presented at international neurological conventions and received well deserved recognition and collaboration from doctors Mahlon DeLong and Jorge Junco from Emory University in Atlanta, United States.
CIREN has, for many years, received the support and cooperation of another renowned professional, Dr. José A. Obeso, from the Navarra University Clinic, Spain, the principal promoter of an international conference of experts addressing topics related to Parkinson’s, which has been hosted by the Cuban institution for several years.
It also maintains strong links with recognized experts from Mexico, Germany and the UK, among others, as a mutually beneficial way of sharing knowledge pertaining to the health and wellbeing of the population, said Dr. Villa Acosta.
International collaboration projects
Dr. Villa Acosta stated that various projects are currently being undertaken with the collaboration of institutions and other countries, among those mentioned was one relating to the diagnosis and treatment of autism, with participants from Spain, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.
He pointed out that collaboration continues with Mexico and Canada, on epilepsy research, while work with the U.S., Spain, Germany and England has focused on the use of Erythropoietin in treating Parkinson’s, as well as new surgical techniques.
He also commented that the institution works closely with MINSAP’s Institute of Hematology and Immunology and the Cuban Neurosciences Center, which together with CIE are managed by the biotechnological and pharmaceutical industry group BioCubaFarma.
At the Institute of Hematology and Immunology work is underway on neural transplantation; using cells from the patients own bone marrow to treat stroke victims. Since 1987 CIREN has been developing neural-transplant techniques, while a cognitive studies laboratory was set up in the neurology department to develop tools and software to help restore the cognitive capacities of patients who have suffered brain damage.
CIREN continues to investigate and innovate, said Dr. Villa Acosta, and many challenges remain for specialists working at this frontier of human knowledge.