What are platelet growth factors (or platelet-rich plasma) and what applications do they have in knee osteoarthritis?

Platelet growth factors (PGFs), also known as platelet-rich plasma (PRPs), are a form of regenerative therapy that uses a patient's own blood to obtain a plasma platelet concentrate with a high concentration of growth factors.

Platelets are blood components responsible for coagulation and wound healing. In addition, they contain a variety of bioactive proteins, such as growth factors, which play a crucial role in the process of tissue repair and regeneration.

The PRP is obtained by extracting a blood sample from the patient and its subsequent processing. During this process, the blood is centrifuged to separate the components and obtain a plasma platelet concentrate, which contains a higher concentration of growth factors compared to peripheral blood.

Growth factors present in PRP include platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), epidermal growth factor (EGF ) and others. These bioactive proteins play key roles in tissue repair and regeneration, stimulating cell proliferation, the formation of new blood vessels, and the synthesis of extracellular matrix.

PRP has been used in various medical areas, including dermatology and dentistry; and in the field of treatment of musculoskeletal injuries, such as osteoarthritis, ligament and tendon injuries, and bone fractures.

It is important to note that while PRP has shown promising results in some cases, its effectiveness and specific benefits may vary depending on each patient's medical condition and individual characteristics.

Some of the more common applications of PRP in osteoarthritis of the knee include:

Intra-articular infiltration of PRP:

  • The PRP is injected directly into the affected knee joint. The growth factors present in PRP act in several ways:
  • They stimulate the proliferation and differentiation of stem cells and chondrocyte cells, which are responsible for the formation and maintenance of articular cartilage.
  • They promote the synthesis of extracellular matrix, which contributes to the repair and regeneration of damaged cartilage.
  • They reduce inflammation in the knee joint, which can relieve painful symptoms associated with osteoarthritis.
  • They improve local vascularization, facilitating the supply of nutrients and growth factors necessary for cartilage repair.

Combination with surgical procedures:

PRP has been used as an adjuvant in surgical procedures for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis, such as microfracture surgery or autologous chondrocyte transplantation. It is applied to the injury site to enhance tissue regeneration and improve long-term results.

It is very important to highlight that, although there are some studies that support the use of PRP in knee osteoarthritis, the results are variable and the systematic reviews and meta-analyses carried out conclude that more research is still required to determine its efficacy, and to establish the preparations and the most appropriate treatment regimens. In addition, it should be known that the response to this treatment can vary greatly depending on the individual characteristics of each patient.