You may have heard about platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and wonder if it's just a fad. Or maybe you're not familiar with PRP, what it does, and how it improves your health. Either way, the first thing you need to know about PRP is that it contains the same cells your body uses to heal.
PRP is a natural regenerative medicine treatment that uses cells from your own blood to reduce inflammation, heal damaged tissues, and ease your pain. As a PRP expert, Behnam Khaleghi, MD, here at Pacific Rheumatology, uses PRP to supplement and enhance the medical care you receive for diseases ranging from vasculitis and arthritis to lupus and scleroderma.
PRP contains a small amount of plasma (the liquid part of your blood) and a large number of platelets. Platelets are normally found in your bloodstream. Whenever you're injured or a disease develops, platelets travel through your blood to the affected area. Then they perform two essential functions.
If you're bleeding, platelets stop the bleeding by making your blood clot. But that's not the important benefit you gain from PRP injections.
Platelets are packed with proteins called growth factors. When platelets reach damaged tissues, they release growth factors, which in turn activate healing. Growth factors regulate cellular processes, promote new cell growth, and trigger a wide range of healing activities. In other words, platelets are responsible for PRP's effectiveness.
Platelets make PRP effective
Platelets contain many different types of growth factors that have well-documented functions in your body. When we inject concentrated platelets taken from a sample of your own blood, the extra platelets significantly boost your body's natural healing abilities.
Here's what platelets — and the growth factors they release — do to heal your body:
Inflammation is a normal and essential part of the healing process, but it only lasts a short time. When you have conditions such as tendonitis, arthritis, or lupus, you have ongoing inflammation. Inflammation that lasts too long causes further damage, scarring, and bodywide disease.
The platelets in PRP release anti-inflammatory agents that decrease inflammation. Reducing inflammation alleviates your pain and protects your body.
Recruit stem cells
Platelets recruit extra stem cells to the area. Stem cells regenerate the new tissues needed to repair damaged tissues. These remarkable cells continuously self-replicate, creating new stem cells that develop into muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, bones, blood vessels, skin, and all the different types of cells needed to help your body heal.
Trigger new blood vessel growth
Several of the growth factors released by platelets regenerate new blood vessels. Your damaged tissues depend on a good blood supply to heal because blood delivers oxygen and nutrients, as well as platelets and stem cells.
Build a supporting matrix
All the activities of platelets serve to accelerate healing, but building a matrix is one of the most important. This matrix is a layer of connective tissue that provides a foundation for new cells as they form into new tissues. Like building a house, this foundation supports your body's ability to regenerate and repair damaged tissues.
Platelets help prevent bacterial and viral infections at the site of injured tissues. They do the job by directly killing bacteria and enhancing your body's immune response.
If you have tendonitis or a rheumatologic disease, call Pacific Rheumatology or book an appointment online to learn how you might benefit from PRP therapy.