Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about what’s in our blood and how it can be used to help repair certain tissues inside and out. Blood is the essence of life, because without it there is no life. It delivers necessary substances such as nutrients and oxygen to the tissues and organs, and it transports waste away from the organs so it can be properly eliminated from the body.
Blood is composed of particles and cells suspended in a fluid called plasma. The cells are mainly white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. In this article I focus on platelets. The main function of platelets is clotting blood, but they also play a large role in repairing and regenerating tissue. They are a natural source of growth factors. One, called platelet-derived growth factor, is a powerful agent that chemically attracts other cells to its location. Another, called transforming growth factor beta, stimulates the deposition of molecules that provide structural and biochemical support to the surrounding cells.
So why is this so important and fascinating?
From a simple blood draw of about 30 to 60 millilitres, we can separate the blood’s components by spinning it in a special centrifuge and create a plasma sample that has a particularly high concentration of platelets with a minimal number of red blood cells. This is known as platelet-rich plasma, or PRP. This PRP solution can be safely injected in various areas of the body to stimulate tissue repair. Soon after the injection, the platelets are activated and release the growth factors, which signal stem cells to migrate to the injection area. The stem cells then proliferate and differentiate into healthy cells specific to that part of the body.
PRP was developed in the 1970s and first used in 1987 in an open-heart surgery procedure. Since the 1990s, doctors have been using PRP for a variety of applications, such as chronic tendon injuries like tennis elbow and frozen shoulder; acute ligament and muscle injuries such as partially torn knee ligaments; osteoarthritis; and healing after musculoskeletal surgery. For these treatments, the PRP is injected inside the joint or on the tendons or ligaments at the injury site. In many cases, PRP injections can be so effective that joint replacement surgery can be postponed or even avoided.
PRP is also used in aesthetic medicine to naturally rehydrate and nourish the skin, help diminish dark circles around the eyes, decrease fine lines and wrinkles and improve the skin’s complexion, texture and tone. PRP stimulates collagen and elastin synthesis, helping to create new dermis to support the skin. PRP facial rejuvenation is an entirely safe and natural way to obtain a fresher and healthier look. It can also be used to treat acne scars and non-androgenic hair loss.
Lastly, recent information suggests that nebulized PRP can be used to improve lung function in patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In this case, the PRP solution is put into a device that turns it into a mist so that it can be inhaled into the lungs.
In my practice I have been using PRP in the treatment of many different musculoskeletal problems and for facial rejuvenation with great results. That we can use our own blood components to help repair and regenerate our tissue never ceases to amaze me. To me, this is the ultimate example of the healing force of nature and how our bodies are capable of self-love!
Anouk Chaumont, ND, graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and practices in Grande Prairie at Anodyne Chiropractic and Sports Therapy. She helps people with a wide variety of conditions, from acute infections to chronic disease, and she is passionate about whole family health.