You may already be familiar with the procedure for utilizing platelet-rich plasma (PRP) to treat things like osteoarthritis and sports injuries. You are familiar with the process of drawing blood, processing it, and injecting the subsequent material into the site of injury. But do you know the actual science behind PRP therapy?
Doctors who attend PRP and stem cell training at Advanced Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) get to learn the science as well as the procedures. Through their training, they learn how PRP therapy can be effectively used as an alternative to pain medication and surgical procedures. They learn how to use PRP and stem cell therapies to benefit their patients in nontraditional ways.
In this article, you are going to learn a little bit of what Advanced Regenerative Medicine Institute trainees learn. It is important for you to understand the science behind PRP therapy if you are considering it for yourself. There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding PRP therapy, and understanding the science will help you filter out that misinformation so you can make a wise decision.
Three Components of Blood
Human blood consists of three primary components: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Plasma is not a blood component. Rather, it is a water-based substance that acts as a transport mechanism for the three previously listed components. You should also know that plasma contains a protein known as fibrinogen. This protein is responsible for organizing platelets around the site of a wound in order to form a clot.
Next, you need to know the functions of each of the three components. The primary function of red blood cells is to carry oxygen from the lungs to various parts of the body while also eliminating carbon dioxide. The primary function of white blood cells is to fight infection and eliminate dead blood cells. As for platelets, these have three functions:
- Constructive tissue formation
- Hemostasis (blood clotting)
- Revascularization (restoration of tissue affected by ischemia).
It is the platelets that interest us in regenerative medicine. Their three functions are critical to wound healing and tissue regeneration regardless of the injury being addressed. Their inherent properties make platelets especially effective for addressing musculoskeletal injuries and damaged joint tissue.
What Happens in the Body
The concept of PRP therapy is rooted in the makeup of human blood. Under normal conditions, blood contains 93% red blood cells, 6% platelets, and 1% white blood cells. Because both red and white blood cells are not particularly useful for wound healing and tissue regeneration, they are not as necessary as platelets for that purpose.
PRP therapy concentrates platelets so as to essentially reverse the makeup of the donor’s blood. In theory, processing blood in a centrifuge should result in a product that is 94% platelets, 5% red blood cells, and 1% white blood cells. Such a concentration gives the body the maximum benefits of the platelets for constructive tissue formation in revascularization.
In the simplest terms possible, increasing the concentration of platelets gives the body more of the materials it needs to heal. In wound healing applications, this means more material to form a blood clot, more material to revascularize damaged skin, and more material to create the connective tissue needed to grow new skin.
The same principles apply when PRP therapy is used to address sports injuries and osteoarthritis. The concentrated platelets act as both a material resource and a jump-starting mechanism to promote healing.
Now that you know the science behind PRP therapy, you are hopefully better prepared to make an informed decision should you ever have to consider it.