What is PRP? That is an important question, because it is becoming increasingly popular to consider regenerative approaches to repairing the human body.
How Does PRP Work?
PRP, short for platelet-rich plasma, is a convenient treatment option for many soft tissue injuries, because it only involves a blood draw from the arm. The blood is spun down in a centrifuge, separating out the platlet rich plasma (PRP) portion in which there are concentrated growth factors and cytokines.
This process separates the platelet-rich plasma (PRP) component of the blood from the red blood cells and other non-therapeutic components, producing a concentrated source of self-derived (“autologous”) platelets as the final PRP product.
This resulting PRP component contains both growth factors and cytokines that may have ability to support or stimulate healing of bone, as well as soft tissue structures, such as ligaments, tendons, fascia, and more. While there have not yet been large-scale, controlled clinical trials conducted to evaluate the efficacy of PRP, the procedure has nonetheless become commonplace in medical offices worldwide, most frequently within orthopedic offices.
The growth factors and cytokines then work as signalling factors within the area they are injected.
There is scientific evidence to suggest that these components may facilitate repairs of soft tissues, but the exact method of action is not fully clear.
Can PRP Therapy Activate Stem Cells?
There is also good evidence to suggest that PRP activates stem cell activity, which is why it is sometimes recommended before and after getting a stem cell treatment, such as those offered by Regenexx.
Specifically, studies have indicated that PRP therapy may have the ability to increase stem cell quantities, as well as to assist stem cells with facilitating natural healing processes.
As a high level rugby player, I used this approach to successfully heal my knee after a back-to-back knee surgeries left substantial soft tissue damage in my knee that had previously been creating extensive swelling.
In a recent October 2016 study by Sakata R, Reddi, et al., the researcher team conclueded that PRP therapy may modulate regeneration of articular cartilage and retard the progression of osteoarthritis (OA) by stimulating cell migration, proliferation, and differentiation of stem and progenitor cells.
Similarly, a September 2016 study by Teng, et al., found that when PRP therapy was administered in combination with bone marrow stem cells, it promoted difficult to treat tendon-bone healing in a rabbit model of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction.
Clearly, there are some interesting indicators that PRP and stem cells may be synergistic in their activity.
When is PRP Most Often Utilized?
PRP is now widely utilized for a wide range of human applications, including the following:
- Sports Medicine
- Oral & Maxillofacial(OMF)
- Pain Management
- Traumatic Injury
- Chronic Disease
When Does PRP Work Best?
In my opinion, PRP is an intelligent and minimally-invasive treatment approach to try if you can get healthcare coverage or are willing to pay the costs out of pocket (usually somewhere between $300-1000).
There is little risk associated with the procedued and no significant downside other than cost.
However, PRP is not a powerful mechanism of inducing soft tissue healing, in that it “induces” repair through growth factors and cytokines and does not actually reconstruct damaged tissue. Therefore, it works best on minor-to-moderate injuries.
Extensive injuries that cannot be adequately addressed through strengthing or physical therapy protocols are better addressed with stem cell treatments (such as Regenexx), or if absolutely necessary, surgery.