Could PRP Stem Cell Therapy Help Damaged Articular Cartilage?

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Articular cartilage is a connective tissue that cushions bones and protects joints from impact. Articular cartilage can naturally wear down as a person ages, but it can also wear down prematurely from repetitive motions, injury, or disease—like osteoarthritis. If you have symptoms like joint pain, swelling, or clicking/grinding, you should reach out to your doctor to see if your articular cartilage has been damaged. They might recommend PRP stem cell therapy as a treatment option. Read on to learn more about articular cartilage loss and how this therapy could help.

Why is Articular Cartilage Loss Such a Problem?

Articular cartilage is made up of specialized cells called chondrocytes. This tissue does not have nerves, blood vessels, or lymphatics, so once it is broken down, it will not heal on its own. As cartilage breaks down, people can develop bone spurs, which can cause the joints to be inflamed and swollen, which could exacerbate your symptoms.

Because articular cartilage doesn't heal on its own, patients may have to rely on a number of different treatments to find relief, such as cortisone injections and over-the-counter pain relievers. If articular cartilage is damaged enough, then patients may have to consider surgery, such as microfracture surgery or chondrocyte transplantation. During microfracture surgery, a surgeon would use a tool called an awl to make holes in the joint surface. These microfractures create a healing response and help blood supply reach the joint surface so that new chondrocytes can grow. During chondrocyte transplantation, a surgeon would use a donor graft or take cartilage from another area of the body to repair the injured area.

How Could PRP Stem Cell Therapy Help?

As you can see, articular cartilage loss is an issue since the cartilage cells don't heal easily and repairs may involve surgery. However, PRP stem cell therapy can be a great alternative to surgery since it is minimally invasive and can reduce symptoms of articular cartilage loss. One study found that PRP therapy could spur collagen production—the main component of connective tissue. This therapy could also suppress chondrocyte apoptosis, or cell death.

PRP stem cell therapy actually combines two different therapies together: platelet-rich plasma injections and stem cell therapy. During PRP therapy, your doctor draws blood to retrieve platelets. Platelets have healing properties and help blood coagulate. The doctor can then place platelet-rich plasma into injured cartilage, which will help it repair. While the platelets are retrieved from blood, stem cells are retrieved from fat deposits or bone marrow during stem cell therapy. Stem cells are amazing cells that can replace a variety of other cells in the body, like the chondrocyte cells in cartilage. Again, these components can be placed into the injured cartilage to help repair the damage and reduce inflammation.

Reach out to a medical provider in your area to learn more about PRP stem cell therapy.