Healthy Beginnings

PRP or stem cells for joint regeneration?

Stem cells are harvested from the umbilical cord and placenta of newborn healthy babies. Photo: Shutterstock

PRP (platelet rich plasma) injections for joint regeneration are becoming more widely known as a way to restore joint function without having to undergo surgery. Umbilical cord stem cell injections are another way for people to do the same thing.

What are the differences (and the similarities)?

Just what is PRP? It is a concentration of the platelets from a person’s own blood. A blood sample is drawn and the tubes are spun in a centrifuge to separate the platelets from the other blood cells.

It is known that these platelets are one part of the clotting cycle that helps clot our blood in the event of any situation where our blood needs to clot to keep us from bleeding to death.

What was discovered about 20 years ago is that these same platelets are also jam-packed full of what are called “growth factors,” which are released at a site of trauma to help us heal faster.

This was first put to use by dentists who started injecting concentrated platelets into a tooth socket that had just had the tooth extracted. This helped prevent a very painful condition called “dry socket.”

Subsequently, some orthopedic surgeons started trying to help people with degenerative joint diseases by injecting platelets right into the broken down joint. They started finding that many times it would help regenerate the joint.

The added advantage is that this is accomplished using the person’s own cells, so there is no chance of rejection or an allergic reaction to it. Sometimes it takes a few injections, a few weeks apart, to get the full therapeutic effect.

Many times the benefits last for years. One study (done by orthopedists) even showed that it was able (in some cases) to regenerate the cartilage in the knee!

Stem cell injections, on the other hand, are not the person’s own cells. They are harvested from the umbilical cord and placenta of newborn healthy babies with the full knowledge and consent of the mother.

They offer the possibility of the same benefits, usually with fewer injections. They also do not trigger any reactions because they are such young cells they do not stimulate a response from the immune system.

The big difference between the two injections is the cost. The cost for stem cells is higher. The stem cells would be better for a person with more severe disease because they are more potent in stimulating a healing reaction.

Both of these techniques offer hope for people with degenerative joint disease who are unwilling or unable to undergo artificial joint replacement surgery.

Robert A. Eslinger, D.O., H.M.D. is head doctor at the Reno Integrative Medical Center. Visit www.renointegrative.com or call 775-829-1009 to learn more.