Understanding the Science Behind PRP Therapy

One of the most exciting advances in health and wellness has been the use of regenerative medicine for therapeutic and aesthetic treatments. In particular, an innovation called “platelet-rich plasma,” or PRP therapy, is bringing dramatic healing and aesthetic rejuvenation to people of all ages, easily and without surgery. OnePeak Medical Clinic is now offering this remarkable treatment at our offices in Medford, OR.

What Is PRP Therapy?

PRP therapy is a revolutionary technique where a small amount of the patient’s blood is drawn from the body and then placed into a centrifuge. The high-speed spinning action of the centrifuge serves to separate the components of the blood. When the spinning is done, the clinician re-injects a concentrated portion of the blood back into the body, directly into the area where treatment is wanted. The process is quick – about a half an hour — and painless.

The human body has many natural agents for repairing damage to skin, cartilage, tendons and other tissues. But many areas in the body, such as knee and shoulder joints, are difficult for these agents to reach. Moreover, some “damage” to our tissue, such as wrinkles from aging, sagging skin or hair loss, are natural effects of advancing years or lifestyle and not regarded by these agents as damage that needs to be repaired.

The concept behind PRP is to spur the body’s own healing through these regenerating agents in a focused way to achieve the desired results. Fresh new tissue can do miraculous things for the body. PRP, which literally grows new tissue, has been used everywhere from skin and scalp treatments to arthritic regions, joint damage, and even sexual organs.

What’s the Science Behind PRP?

Blood is a complex substance made up of multiple components and nutrients. Among the most important are plasma, or the liquid portion; red blood cells, which carry oxygen; white blood cells that fight off infection, and the stars of PRP therapy, the platelets.

Platelets are very tiny blood cells that help the body form clots to stop bleeding, a process called coagulation. When a blood vessel in the body gets damaged, it sends out signals to the platelets for help. The platelets speed to the site of damage and plug (clot) the bleeding so that further damage is minimized, and a physical foundation is set for the tissue to heal.

The process where platelets spread themselves across the surface of a damaged blood vessel to stop bleeding is called adhesion. This process gets its name because when platelets get to the site of the injury, they grow sticky tentacles that help them adhere to one another. Everyone knows how fast a cut on the skin can develop a scab, which is simply a clot. Inside the body, this process happens just as quickly.

Platelets Do More Than Clot

In addition to stopping the bleeding on damaged tissue, platelets also send out chemical signals to attract more platelets. These reinforcements and their own sticky tentacles then pile onto the other platelets in a process called aggregation. Once the damage has been clotted, something even more wondrous happens from these tiny cells. They begin to grow fresh new tissue to repair the damage.

Researchers have identified more than 30 “growth factors” that platelets use to build new tissue. Some of the most important ones include:

Platelet-Derived Growth Factor (PDGF)

The primary role of this agent is to encourage the growth of blood vessels within the body. Also known as angiogenesis, this regenerative process uses cells from existing blood vessels to create new blood vessel tissue.

Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF)

This growth agent, found in platelets, contributes to wound healing. It encourages the production and differentiation of different kinds of cells for tissue-specific purposes.

Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1)

IGF-1 is both a growth factor and a hormone and is very similar to insulin in terms of its molecular structure. This substance plays a major role in building and maintaining metabolism.

Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF)

EGF is a growth factor that has been discovered in various sorts of human tissue. It stimulates cell growth in terms of both overall numbers and differentiation (types of cells).

Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF)

This growth factor is involved in generating muscle tissue and bypassing blocked blood vessels.

These are just a few of the natural growth factors in PRP that stimulate the regeneration of tissue that has been lost to age, wear or injury.

Roots in Sports Medicine

Platelet-rich plasma therapy was first developed in the 1970s. By the late 1980s, PRP treatments were being used during open-heart surgery. Later on, in the 1990s, doctors began using it in conjunction with mouth and jaw (maxillofacial) surgery. Soon PRP was used as an aid in healing wounds that required reconstructive skin flaps. In these procedures, the doctor moves a portion of the patient’s existing healthy tissue to repair a tear or other defect in tissue or skin.

In 1999 and the early 2000s, Dr. Allan Mishra, an orthopedic surgeon in California, tried PRP as a part of the treatment for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Bono’s torn Achilles tendon. This was one of the first reports of PRP being used in sports medicine.

PRP Track Record

The first documented human study, published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine by Mishra and his collaborator Terry Pavelko on behalf of Stanford University, highlighted their success with the use of PRP for chronic elbow tendinosis in 2006. The clinical study showed that PRP appeared to accelerate wound and tissue healing. Patients showed a 60% improvement immediately, 81% at a six-month period and a 93% decrease in pain at their final follow up in two years.

Shortly thereafter, a slew of well-known professional athletes and sports figures were successfully treated with PRP, which has helped the therapy gain popularity as a viable treatment. For example, in 2008, Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver Hines Ward received PRP treatment for a knee medial collateral ligament sprain. He credited PRP for his ability to heal quickly and return to play in that year’s Super Bowl.

Since then, other high-profile athletes, such as championship golfer Tiger Woods, have credited PRP for helping them return to their respective sport. PRP therapy has become highly successful, accepted, and more widely available.

Beyond Sports Medicine

As the regenerative powers of PRP keep demonstrating themselves, the treatment is now being used for other conditions beyond sports injury. If PRP could restore damaged tissue, why not worn tissue as well?

Since then, PRP has become a major tool in restorative therapies of all kinds. It is frequently used for cosmetic rejuvenation on skin and tissues that have become wrinkled or sagging due to age, childbirth or other “natural” conditions where the body’s platelets perceive no damage, but the patient is unhappy with the body’s state.

Beyond regenerating new tissue for aesthetic reasons, PRP has been used successfully in treating lowered sexual performance and drive in both men and women and even as a method for correcting hair loss.

Beneficial PRP Applications

PRP therapy is a major breakthrough in medicine because it’s able to do its work by spurring the body’s own restorative tools. PRP is safe because it uses the patient’s own blood to perform its work; there’s little risk of infection. In a matter of days or weeks, results can be felt and seen. In a matter of months, depending on the extent of the treatment, the restorations are complete, and the results last for years.

A partial list of how PRP is helping patients everywhere look and feel their best includes:

PRP for Facial Rejuvenation

Wrinkles, sagging skin and a loss of skin luster are natural effects of aging. PRP treatments can deliver dramatic anti-aging results. The PRP spurs the production of new, natural collagen beneath the skin. A skilled clinician can actually use PRP to “sculpt” new lines in the face and neck, tightening wrinkles and volumizing spots where smoothing is desired.

PRP for Breast Cosmetics

Over the course of time, women’s breasts can change in shape and size. The effects of childbirth can cause sagging, as can fluctuations in weight. Some women undergo breast implants that they later change their minds about, which can leave them with significant loss of volume. PRP can help correct these and other aesthetic conditions, providing women with the look they want and a return to their youthful selves.

PRP for Female Sexuality

The key to healthy, powerful sexual function is blood flow. PRP is able to regenerate fresh new tissue and blood vessels that can dramatically rejuvenate sexual drive and performance. For women, the benefits include greater arousals, more clitoral sensitivity, stronger orgasms, longer sexual stamina, tightening of the vaginal wall and increased vaginal lubrication. Together, these effects can be life-changing for women and their loved ones.

PRP for Male Sexuality

As is true for women, healthy blood flow is critical for healthy male sexual function. Tissues that deliver blood flow can build up with plaque over time, causing poor blood delivery that results in erectile performance that ranges from unsatisfactory to impossible. Pills for erectile dysfunction only put a band-aid on the problem. PRP solves the problem at its root. The end results are improved sexual capabilities, greater stamina, increased sensation and in many cases even enhanced size.

PRP for Hair Restoration

For many years, both men and women have sought an effective, long-term solution to balding and hair loss. For just as long, the options were unappealing, ranging from painful transplants to topical treatments that often yielded only marginal results. PRP treatments for hair restoration is an exciting new technique that can help the body restore hair growth and retard the progress of hair loss, especially in the very common condition of male or female pattern baldness.

The PRP treatments are most effective in the early stages of balding. Catching and treating the condition early can deliver the most effective results. The treatment can lead to increased hair on the scalp, and beyond promoting new hair growth, it can also assist with the following hair-related conditions:

Hypertrichosis

This condition is marked by excessive hair growth over and above what’s typically normal for the age, sex and race of an individual. It is not the same as hirsutism, which is a condition of excess hair growth in women that follows a male distribution pattern. Hypertrichosis can develop all over the body or can be isolated to small patches like the eyebrows or beard line. PRP can help solve this condition.

Alopecia Areata

This is a common auto-immune disorder that often results in unpredictable hair loss. The condition affects nearly 7 million people in the United States. In the majority of cases, hair falls out in small patches. In some cases, the effect of this disorder can even lead to the complete loss of hair on the scalp (alopecia totalis) or, in extreme cases, the entire body (alopecia universalis). The condition can affect anyone regardless of age and gender, though most cases occur before the age of 30.

Hair Loss From Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the US, and women are at the greatest risk. Iron is critical for producing hemoglobin: a protein that helps red blood cells deliver oxygen throughout your body. Iron deficiency, especially when it progresses into full-blown iron deficiency anemia, can cause hair loss. When people suffer from this condition, the scalp can lose about 100 hairs a day.

Medication-Induced Hair Loss

Most of us don’t read the tiny print that comes with our medications and describes the potential side effects. One side effect that is not uncommon from many common drugs is hair loss. Among the many potential culprits are antibiotics and antifungal drugs, cholesterol-lowering drugs, birth control pills, mood stabilizers and medications for high blood pressure. All of these drugs are in widespread use, and depending on the individual, some can cause hair loss.

Does PRP Work for Hair Loss?

A June 2018 study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology reported findings about PRP for hair loss. The study concluded that platelet-rich plasma’s effectiveness as a hair loss treatment is based on the increase in concentration of growth factors it promotes as well as the secretion of proteins. These promote the healing process at the cellular level.

The study went on to say that PRP treatment can stimulate hair growth locally and topically, improve the health of the hair, increase shine and thickness, make hair more vital and pliable, and cause a decrease in splitting and hair loss over time. As PRP treatments promote healing, patients will begin to notice visible results in their natural hair growth.

PRP treatment times for hair restoration are quick, however, multiple sessions may be suggested to achieve maximum results. The treatments are safe, non-invasive and require no downtime.

How to Get Started

PRP treatments have been proven to deliver dramatic results in a variety of ways. Patients no longer have to look and feel older than they want to, and they can enjoy the satisfaction and life-altering effects of restored youth. Fresh, lustrous, supple skin, new hair growth and even rejuvenated sexual satisfaction are only a few easy treatments away.

Expertize with PRP treatments can change your outlook and your life. Reach out today to schedule a consultation with the professionals at OnePeak Medical Clinic in Medford, OR.

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