Platelet Rich Plasma Injection Therapy
Platelet Rich Plasma, or PRP, is a blood plasma with concentrated platelets and other growth factors. The concentrated platelets found in PRP contain huge reservoirs of bioactive proteins, including growth factors and signaling proteins that are vital to initiate and accelerate tissue repair and regeneration. These growth factors number at least a dozen different factors. The process is non-surgical and minimally invasive. It is considered a type of cell based hair restoration procedure. Platelet rich plasma, (PRP) is derived from our patient's own blood and is rich in growth factors. Because it is derived from your own blood, it is termed autologous and is safe.
Although PRP technology is considered cutting edge technology, it was initially developed 20 years ago for heart surgery to aid with the wound healing and blood loss. Its benefits have also been used in orthopedics procedures and are being applied towards the facilitating of healing muscle, tendons, ligaments, articular and meniscal injuries. In fact, PRP has been widely used in Europe for many years. It is a cell based therapy using the patient's own growth factors. The growth factors are concentrated however. The concentration of platelets is increased often over 5 times their natural concentration. This results in a super concentration of beneficial growth factors. The benefits of this therapy have been understood for years in many disciplines of medicine, but only recently (last 3 years) have they been applied to hair restoration surgery and hair restoration in general. There are numerous reports that PRP promotes faster healing and increased hair cell regeneration.
To prepare PRP, a small amount of blood is taken from the patient's arm. The blood is then placed in a centrifuge. The centrifuge spins and separates the platelets from the rest of the blood components. The entire process takes less than 15 minutes and increases the concentration of platelets and growth factors up to 600%. Using the patient's own blood, specially prepared platelets are taken and re-injected into the affected area. Once introduced back into the body, the platelets release growth factors and signaling proteins that basically tells the stem cells what to become. Stem cells by themselves are not capable of repairing the area. They need to be directed, and the platelets are the directors. Think of stem cells as the construction workers and the platelets as their supervisors. Once activated, the stem cells are capable of many remarkable things.
The human body has a remarkable ability to heal itself, and by re-injecting concentrated platelets, we are augmenting the natural healing process. The PRP injections are calling in stem cells to repair the area and maximize stem cell release to optimize healing and cellular regeneration (creation of new hair cells).
There are a number of ways in PRP affects stem cells. Wound healing triggers an embryonic state that allows it to become more receptive to receiving instructions from Wnt proteins. The Wnt are a network of proteins implicated in hair follicle development. By introducing more Wnt proteins, researchers have found that they could take advantage of the embryonic genes to promote hair follicle growth, thus make skin regenerate instead of just repair. This suggests that the embryonic state created by the wound healing process (augmented by PRP) can be used to manipulate hair follicle regeneration. The "embryonic window" of opportunity sends stem cells to the area injected. The regenerated hair follicles originate from non-hair follicle stem cells.
Researchers have also identified stem cells within the skin's fatty layer and showed that molecular signals from these cells were necessary to spur hair growth. Men with male pattern baldness still have stem cells in follicle roots but these stem cells need signals from within the skin to grow hair. Researchers from Yale University showed that when hair growth begins, the fat layer expands in a process called adipogenesis. They found that a type of stem cell involved in creation of new fat cells was required for hair regeneration. They also found these cells to produce molecules called platelet derived growth factors (PDGF), which are necessary to produce hair growth.
We know certain factors diminish stem cell release. Alcohol seems to diminish the body's release of stem cells so when undergoing either stem cell treatments or platelet rich plasma treatments alcohol intake should be a minimum! Smoking can do the same; reducing cigarette smoking is a must for any optimal healing to occur. Certain supplements seem to positively affect the release of stem cells and actually increase their number. These include vitamin D3, blueberry extract, carnosine, and green tea extract.