What’s The Hype On PRP And Stem Cell Regenerative Medicine?

| By Dr. Allan Zacher |

Platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy is a revolutionary new treatment that relieves pain by promoting long lasting healing of musculoskeletal conditions. This rapidly emerging technique is now available at your doctor’s office and can be used to treat a variety of knee, shoulder and tendon problems including early and late arthritis and a variety of painful conditions. Additionally PRP and stem cell treatment can be used in a variety of cosmetic and medical conditions. (Research: Vampire Facial and “O-shot”)

The so-called “regenerative therapies” (PRP, fat-derived stem cells or even stem cells derived from bone marrow) are based on taking the patients own tissue (blood, fat and/or bone marrow), using centrifugal techniques to concentrate and enhance the generative cells and growth factors and then using this material to treat the patient.

That’s the hype, but does it work? How does it work? Is there actual science supporting the use of these technologies?

The answer is that PRP and stem cell material derived from fat tissue can be extraordinarily useful in a variety of arthritic conditions. Additionally, PRP has been scientifically demonstrated to enhance regenerative techniques on cosmetic procedures including scar reduction and enhancement of cosmetic laser and micro-needling techniques.

Notoriously, two members of the Pittsburg Steelers had PRP injections in the knee prior to winning the Super Bowl in 2011. Since this time, hundreds of thousands of professional and non-professional athletes have benefited from regenerative medical treatments. PRP is now being used by non-athletes to treat early and even late arthritis in the knees, shoulder and a variety of types of tendonitis.

How does PRP help?

The body’s first response to soft tissue injury is to deliver platelet cells. Packed with growth and healing factors, platelets initiate repair and attract the critical assistance of stem cells. PRP therapy’s natural healing process intensifies the body’s efforts by delivering a higher concentration of platelets.

To create PRP therapy, a small sample of your blood is drawn (similar to a lab test sample) and placed in a centrifuge that spins the blood at high speeds, separating the platelets from the other components. The concentrated platelet rich plasma (PRP) is then injected into and around the point of injury, jump-starting and significantly strengthening the body’s natural healing signal. Because your own blood is used, there is no risk of a transmissible infection and a very low risk of allergic reaction.

What kinds of things does it work well on?

In my experience, PRP is a superlative treatment for early knee arthritis – I know because I’ve had it myself after having had two rounds of cortisone treatments that helped temporarily. I have personally provided PRP + fat-derived stem cell treatment to a number of patients suffering “bone on bone” advanced arthritis in the knee who were told that knee replacement surgery was the only option. This technique can provide delay of total knee replacement surgery for several years. These regenerative technologies are safe (or at least as safe as any medical procedure can be) because they use the patients own healing components derived from their own tissue. Nothing prepared in the lab (like cortisone or Synvisc) is used and thus the chance of adverse reaction is virtually zero. Furthermore, a patient will not have the anatomic changes that follow surgery (“shaving” the meniscal cartilage in the case of arthroscopy or cutting off the ends of the bones and replacing them with artificial components in the case of knee replacement surgery.)

Like all medical treatments – these do not always work but the effectiveness rate is significant, and the physical “down side” is minimal or none so I believe it’s worth exploring these options before surgery if the patient has failed the usual conservative therapy of medications and physical therapy.

Dr. Allan Zacher is an ABA-Board Certified physician with over 25 years in practice. He is the Medical Director at Mountain Radiance.

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker