The concept of regenerative medicine is relatively new to the average American, who tends to view healthcare as more of a collection of prescription medications and invasive procedures. As a result, there is a general lack of understanding of regenerative medicine within the general public. This can be observed in the confusion between platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy and its closely related cousin, stem cell therapy.
According to the staff at Apex Biologix, a Utah company that trains doctors in regenerative medicine procedures, the subtle differences between PRP and stem cell therapies are enough to consider them two different forms of regenerative medicine used for different purposes.
Basics of PRP Therapy
PRP therapy gets its name from the fact that it is based on using concentrated platelets in blood plasma to encourage natural healing. The process of acquiring platelets and concentrating them is rather simple. A doctor draws blood from the patient being treated, then processes it using a specialized centrifuge to separate and concentrate platelets. The resulting material is the platelet-rich plasma that is then injected into the treatment site.
Platelet-rich plasma is naturally infused with a lengthy list of growth factors and nutrients that the body needs to promote the healing process. PRP therapy simply concentrates those growth factors and nutrients by concentrating the platelets themselves. Injecting the concentrated material into the treatment site essentially jump-starts and boosts the healing process.
Basics of Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell therapy is similar in practice and goal, but different in terms of the material used. Instead of using blood and concentrated platelets, doctors extract a specific kind of stem cell material from the patient’s own body fat or bone marrow. The stem cells they are after are undifferentiated cells that can be coaxed by their environment to grow into certain kinds of tissue.
To get the material they are after, doctors extract fat or bone marrow tissue and then process it in a way similar to PRP therapy. The processed material contains highly concentrated stem cells that are then injected into the treatment site. Those stem cells not only boost the healing process but they also provide the raw materials for regenerating tissue.
Benefits of Stem Cell and PRP
PRP and stem cell therapies offer similar benefits despite being different in some ways. The list of benefits begins with the fact that both therapies are minimally invasive. We cannot say completely noninvasive due to the fact that material is extracted and injected using needles. But that’s it. Neither therapy even comes close to surgery in terms of invasiveness.
Second, the minimally invasive nature of both procedures significantly reduces the risk of infection or allergic reaction. In concert with that, the risk of rejection is also near zero given the fact that patients donate their own material for the procedures. And finally, both PRP and stem cell therapies are significantly less costly than invasive surgeries.
To that last point, it should be noted that the majority of insurance companies in the U.S. do not yet cover PRP or stem cell procedures. That is unfortunate, given the amount of money they can save by supporting regenerative medicine over more costly procedures. However, Apex Biologix and other proponents of regenerative medicine believe it is only a matter of time before insurance companies come around.
Anyone suffering from the kinds of medical issues PRP and stem cell therapies are designed to address should take a good look at both options. If they can save the patient from having to undergo costly, invasive surgery, they should at least be considered.