Is Platelet Rich Plasma the same as Stem Cell treatment?

Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)

Perhaps you’ve heard that Tiger Woods and other sportsmen have undergone Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy.

What is PRP?

PRP means ‘platelet rich plasma’ and its task is to increase the receptivity of the damaged area of the body to healing or anabolic processes. In this context, the term ‘anabolic’ means the generation of an area that supports healing.

Generation of an anabolic environment that supports healing is not a new idea in medicine and surgery. For years, doctors have known that the bodies of some patients have greater abilities to heal, while others return more slowly to health. In some cases, sickness or age are responsible for the inability of the body to heal post-operation. In spite of the fact that doctors have known for ages that they should expect some patients to have an impaired ability to heal, no attention was paid to how to improve the regenerative potential. About 20 years ago, dentists began to change their practice. Some began to experiment with a simple solution of Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP). Dentists produced this solution from their patient’s own blood in order to improve the healing process after implants.

Platelet Rich Plasma may be obtained by centrifuging blood from the veins of the patient. Blood undergoes centrifuging with single use equipment in order to separate blood cells and plasma components from platelets and receive a concentrated plasma preparation. Most platelet rich preparations contain 3-5 times more platelets than normal blood.

Platelet rich plasma is a simple example of how we can improve environmental conditions for healing tissues. Blood platelets contain growth factors that may help to speed up healing. They include: TGF-beta, b-FGF, PDGF-bb, VEGF, IGF, as well as many others. Studies have shown that the concentration of growth factors differs among patients. Metaphorically speaking, growth factors are a cup of strong expresso for our cells. Cells do their work at a certain tempo. If we add growth factors to them (for example, those contained in platelet rich plasma) it is as if we gave each cell a large cup of strong coffee. Cells react to growth factors just as we react to a triple espresso: they work harder and faster. Comparing the cells to bricks at a construction site – if we have just a few layers of these ‘bricks’ and we add growth factors them, the layers of bricks quickly form an entire wall.

Is platelet rich plasma effective?

This is a very good question. When it comes to healing tendon conditions (inflammation of the Achilles tendon, inflammation of the medial epicondylitis), some studies indicate effectiveness of therapy, while others do not. As in the majority of cases in medicine, the jury is still out on this question.

Is Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy the same as Stem Cell therapy?

No, platelet rich plasma is based on injecting a portion of blood platelets with growth factors and not Stem Cells.

At Sport-Med Cracow we also use new generation techniques that are more effective than platelet rich plasma. These include platelet lysate. In the case of platelet lysates, our specialists produce platelet rich plasma from the blood of the patient and then cause the disintegration of blood platelets so that their growth factor contents are immediately available. A great advantage of using platelet lysates instead of platelet rich plasma is the fact that platelet rich plasma should be acquired each time before its use, while platelet lysate can be generated in large batches and kept for an indefinite period of time, thanks to a cryopreservation process. At Sport-Med Cracow we also use various solutions of activated platelets or new generation platelet rich plasma. In order to acquire new generation solutions, at Sport-Med Cracow we begin with the platelet rich plasma that undergoes activation under the influence of various natural substances, and then we incubate the platelets for several hours or days. At this time platelets are directed to production of defined growth factors that are important in the healing of a given type of tissue. Then we isolate a mixture of growth factors and use them instead of platelet rich plasma. For example, we can inject a solution that is rich in tissue growth factors such as TGR-beta, influencing its production through the platelets in the patients’ blood.

In conclusion, platelet rich plasma is a cocktail made from natural growth factors that can help in the healing process of patients. In orthopedics PRP therapy is a routine procedure used with the goal of post-operative healing in the case of the lack of bone growth after fracture, and is also injected in the case of various injuries to the tendons. In aesthetic medicine, there is auxiliary use in the case of implants of fat tissue and skin regeneration. Platelet Rich Plasma treatment is not Stem Cell therapy, but it fulfills an important function in basic regenerative medicine and its role will probably increase in the future.