Stem Cell Injections vs PRP: Which Option is Best for You

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Stem cells and platelets are natural healing agents. Every day of your life, your body depends on them to keep you healthy. Here at the Regenerative Institute of Newport Beach, we specialize in using these regenerative agents to heal health problems.

Whether we choose to inject stem cells or platelets in the form of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) depends on factors such as which tissues are damaged, the type of problem, and the severity of your condition.

Even though stem cells and PRP promote healing, they work differently. Let’s take a look at each one:

PRP is the first responder to nurture healing.

Platelets are naturally found in your blood, where they’re best-known for clotting blood to stop bleeding. However, they have another vital role. Platelets are rich sources of proteins called growth factors, which are essential for healing.

When you suffer an injury or develop a disease, platelets travel to the problem area and release growth factors. There are many different types of growth factors that each stimulate a different healing response. As a group, growth factors are responsible for activities such as:

  • Preventing degeneration of healthy tissues
  • Recruiting stem cells to the area
  • Triggering the production of all types of new cells needed to heal the problem

PRP, which is made in the office from your own blood, contains a high concentration of platelets. When PRP is injected at the site of an injury, the platelets speed up healing, reduce inflammation, and help to relieve your pain.

Stem cells continuously regenerate new cells.

Stem cells are the building blocks for every part of your body. They have the unique ability to self-replicate, dividing to create a new cell that can develop into numerous types of tissues. Stem cells rather amazingly self-replicate as many times as needed. Their job is to regenerate tissues by producing new cells to replace old tissues and repair damaged tissues.

In addition to regenerating new cells, stem cells release tiny vesicles or sacs called exosomes. Exosomes contain biochemicals that cause specific reactions in cells when they’re released. The biochemicals may activate wound healing, trigger the release of growth factors, or stimulate tissue regeneration. Exosomes also carry proteins that are vital for your metabolism, as well as DNA and RNA.

Like PRP, stem cells help heal disease and injuries when they’re injected directly at the site of the problem. The stem cells used in injections may come from your own fat or bone marrow, which are good sources of adult stem cells called mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs).

MSCs are often used for stem cell injections because they self-replicate to produce tissues such as collagen, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, muscle, and blood vessels.

Alternately, MSCs can also be obtained from cord blood and amniotic fluid. These tissues are discarded after a Cesarean delivery, but women may choose to donate them as a source for stem cell therapy.

Stem cells vs PRP

PRP effectively supports tissues that are slow to heal. That makes it a good choice for tissues where healing is hindered because of a poor blood supply, such as tendons, ligaments, and the meniscus in your knee. PRP also helps when your have a severe injury that may take a long time to heal. It’s often applied during orthopedic surgery to promote a faster recovery.

Stem cells literally create new tissues and recruit the growth factors and substances needed to support tissue regeneration. As a result, stem cells may be the best choice when tissues are lost or severely damage. This includes degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis where cartilage wears down, ligament ruptures, a herniated disc, or a broken bone.

Even though PRP recruits stem cells to the diseased or injured area, a stem cell injection may be preferred over PRP when we need to be sure a concentrated amount of stem cells -- more than may be recruited by PRP -- are delivered to an injury.

The choice of stem cells vs PRP isn’t always clear cut. For example, PRP effectively relieves the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis, so it may be a better option for you than stem cells, depending on the severity of your arthritis and your health needs. In many cases, we inject PRP and stem cells together because they complement one another and enhance your results.

To learn whether you might find faster healing or pain relief with PRP, stem cells, or both, call Regenerative Institute of Newport Beach, or book an appointment online.

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