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Platelet-Rich Plasma: Growth Factors and Pro and Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Platelet-rich plasma is derived from blood and is known to boost wound healing and the overall healing process of the body.  Its healing properties are often accredited to the abundance of growth factors it contains, however its pro-and anti-inflammatory properties have also been shown to boost its effectivity  

So which growth factors and pro and anti-inflammatory properties can be found in human platelet-rich plasma? While there are many growth factors found in platelet-rich plasma, platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), epidermal growth factor (EGF), insulin-like growth factor (IGF), and fibroblast growth factor are the most common factors that can stimulate both pro-inflammatory cytokines and anti-inflammatory cytokines.

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Which Growth Factors Stimulate the Pro-and Anti-inflammatory Properties in Platelet-Rich Plasma?

Platelet-rich plasma has been shown to have bioactive factors that can help with tissue regeneration and the body’s healing process. With the release of growth factors into the body from a platelet concentration, it’s possible for them to have a pro-and anti-inflammatory effect depending on clinical application. While there are many growth factors in platelet-rich plasma, there are around 4 main autologous platelet concentrates that contribute to the pro-and anti-inflammatory effects of platelet-rich plasma. 

1) Platelet-Derived Growth Factor

Platelet-derived growth factor is also commonly associated with blood coagulation and blood vessel repairs. However, it also plays a crucial role in repairing damaged bones as a potent mitogen and chemotactic agent. What this means is that when a bone is damaged, PDGF is released to the injury site and attracts other necessary cells including the osteogenic cells to begin the healing process. 

In addition to attracting other reparative cells, PDGF promotes the process of angiogenic cytokines which involves pro-inflammatory cytokines. To properly heal any bone fracture or injury, angiogenic cytokines are necessary as it stimulates vessel growth that will carry inflammatory cells, cartilage cells, and bone precursor cells to the damaged area. The inflammation is not directly caused by PDGF but it does stimulate inflammatory processes that are necessary to conduct proper healing and recovery. 

2) Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor

Vascular endothelial growth factor is a protein molecule that is associated with the formation of vessels as well as cell and tissue repair. While its main purpose is to aid the vascular system, VEGF has also been proven to play an integral part in the pro-inflammatory cytokines and angiogenesis cytokines of the entire body. 

Similar to PDGF, when a part of your body is injured to begin the healing process, VEGF stimulates blood vessel growth so that reparative and inflammatory cells can be concentrated within the damaged tissues and boost the body’s natural recovery process.

While VEGF is an important mitogen in blood vessel growth and wound healing, it is important to note its harmful effects on certain diseases as well. With its ability to stimulate angiogenesis, uncontrolled VEGF could also promote cancer progression. 

This is because the inflammation caused by angiogenesis can lead to further complications for a cancer patient and cause the rapid growth of a tumor. In a previous clinical study, blocking and controlling the levels of VEGF actually proved to be a viable way to prevent the further progression of tumor growth. 

3) Insulin-Like Growth Factor 

Released from the liver, the insulin-like growth factor is often associated with human growth and the promotion height. In conjunction with insulin, IGF is also responsible for stimulating glucose transport in fat and muscle. While not exactly reparative in its nature, IGF does contribute to the inflammation responses of the body. 

Unlike PDGF and VEGF, IGF has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties rather than pro-inflammatory properties. While it doesn’t affect inflammatory cells directly, IGF does regulate the movement and entry of inflammatory cells into the different tissues of the body. An in vitro study also suggests that IGF has the ability to reduce inflammation in the immune system specifically on astrocytes and microglia.

4) Fibroblast Growth Factors

Fibroblast growth factors are responsible for regulating many different functions in your body which include cell composition, mitigation, proliferation, and variation. While it can also promote the angiogenic process in the body and aid in the creation of blood vessels, its inflammatory properties vary slightly from other growth factors as it can cause both pro-and anti-inflammatory effects. 

When FGF is concentrated in human platelets it has the ability to signal epithelial repair and pro-inflammatory cytokines which subsequently causes inflammation to the injury site. However, in some studies that use the injection of platelets and FGF, it was found that the growth factor actually has suppressive effects on the inflammation response of the body specifically on AP-induced injuries; kind of like an inflammatory mediator. With this, FGF can have both pro-and anti-inflammatory properties depending on its application and use.

Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections 

Young asian woman touch her healthy and fresh skin after PRP treatment

With the different functions and benefits of growth factors in platelet-rich plasma, injecting platelet-rich plasma could be a very beneficial application of platelet therapy in treating several issues and conditions. Depending on your condition, the growth factors will help regulate the pro-and anti-inflammatory processes to accelerate your recovery. 

While the pro-inflammatory properties are essential in the initial treatment of injuries or damage to your cells, an anti-inflammatory effect is also needed for long-term recovery. If inflammation isn’t regulated, the pro-inflammation properties of the rich plasma and growth factors may cause further damage to the injury. 

There are many injuries that can benefit from PRP injections like torn muscles, joint pains, and injured tendons. In most procedures, the platelet-rich plasma is taken from the patient’s own blood and is injected into the injury site directly. With the boost in bioactive factors accelerating cell and tissue regeneration, PRP injections have been proven to be a safe and effective treatment. 

PRP injections are usually administered as an outpatient procedure and have a considerably short recovery time. If you’re looking into PRP injections as a therapy treatment to treat your injuries, here’s the basic process of the procedure:

1) Collection of Autologous Platelet Concentrations

To derive the platelet solution required in PRP therapy, an autologous blood donation is done. While blood from another person may work, the use of your own blood in this procedure minimizes the chances of an allergic reaction or rejection of the platelet solution. 

Like any other blood draw, an autologous blood donation is a quick and painless procedure that shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to complete. For more severe injuries your doctor may need to draw more blood to have enough concentrated platelets in the plasma rich solution but no more than 2 ounces of blood will be drawn at a time. 

2) Preparation and Centrifugation of Platelet-Rich Plasma 

After the draw, the cellular composition of your blood needs to be altered so that the autologous platelet-rich plasma can be separated from the other components of your blood which include platelet-poor plasma and white blood cells. 

To do this, your doctor will take the blood sample to the lab and use a centrifuge device to segregate and process the components by density. This whole process should take no more than 30 minutes and result in an autologous platelet-rich plasma concentrate solution.

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3) Injection of Platelet Solution to Injury Site

While PRP therapy is not considered a non-invasive form of therapy, there may still be some discomfort due to the needle and injury. To alleviate this, you may ask for a local or topical anesthetic to be applied before the administration of the solution. Using an ultrasound to accurately inject the platelet solution into the injury, the entire process may take several injections to complete the session.

4) Recovery and Results

Depending on the severity of your injury, you may need multiple sessions of PRP therapy. Patients with smaller injuries can possibly see improvements with just one session after 6 to 8 weeks while more serious injuries could require follow-up sessions and take more than 8 weeks to see any noticeable improvements. 

After each session, side effects may include soreness in the injection site, temporary blood clots, and skin discoloration. Though it’s unlikely, if side effects last for more than a couple of days, contact your doctor immediately to assess the situation.

Lifestyle Changes and its Positive Effects on Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy

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While PRP therapy is very effective in itself, studies have shown that there are several things you can incorporate into your lifestyle to boost the platelet solution’s effectiveness before taking part in the actual treatment. As PRP therapy makes use of your own blood, participating in activities that can boost your platelet count and blood health have been shown to improve the results of PRP therapy. Here are some things you should adopt before PRP therapy:

1) Increasing Vitamin B and Iron in Your Diet

Both vitamin B and iron are essential components of producing healthy blood cells which will in turn affect the quality and concentration of platelets during your PRP therapy sessions. By adding vitamin b and iron-rich foods into your daily habit especially before your treatment, you could potentially increase the concentration of platelets in the PRP solution resulting in a more effective procedure. 

To boost your vitamin B intake, consider adding spinach, kale, rice, beef liver, and black-eyed beans. On the other hand, eggs, lentils, nuts, and dark chocolate could increase the iron in your daily diet. While you can find foods that are fortified with vitamin b and iron, it is best to get them from whole foods as other options may contain additional additives that could cause more harm than good. 

2) Exercising (Cardio)

Cardio exercise has a multitude of health benefits linked to it including in the production of healthy red blood cells and peripheral blood. While it may not exactly create more red and white blood cells, cardio does increase oxygen levels in the body which in turn increases the hemoglobin and cell mass of your red blood cells. With the improvement in the quality of your red blood cells, the composition of platelets in PRP therapy may also become more effective. 

If your injury is too severe to partake in regular cardio exercises like running, walking, and cycling, you may want to discuss a pre-treatment cardio regimen with your doctor as strenuous activities may cause further damage to your body. 

3) Taking Herbal Supplements

A great way to ensure that your body has all the necessary nutrients it needs to function is taking supplements. In the case of your blood health, there are several herbal supplements containing papaya leaf extract and bovine colostrum that have been said to improve platelet count in the body. While these supplements are still under experimental study and research, it does show promise in boosting autologous platelet concentrations in humans. 

If the studies are correct, herbal supplements should lead to an increase in platelet concentration and bioactive factors during PRP therapy and boost the treatment’s healing effects. 

4) Reducing Alcohol Intake and Smoking

Alcohol and smoking are known for having negative effects on the body which include blood health and wound healing. Alcohol and smoking cause a reduction in platelet counts found in the blood and have a suppressive effect on the oxygen levels of your blood cells. 

Not only does this promote the possibility of a reduced amount of autologous platelet concentrations but it also slows down the general healing process of the body. Drinking alcohol and smoking are counterintuitive to the goals of PRP therapy as well as any other injury treatment and should be avoided during your recovery. 

Overall the use of platelet-rich plasma in the treatment of injuries can be very effective. With the optimal concentration of bioactive factors in platelet-rich plasma, the body’s natural healing process is stimulated which includes the pro- and anti inflammatory regulations needed to properly address cellular damage in the body. 

If you want to boost the effectiveness of your PRP therapy session, you may want to adopt certain lifestyle changes that can improve blood health and provide an optimal concentration of rich plasma for the treatment. 

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Learn More: How Long Does It Take for Plasma to Dissolve After PRP Facial Injections?

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