Platelets are one of the components of the human blood system. They are circulating in the vasculature along with red and white blood cells. Platelets participate in the blood clotting system and function to stop bleeding at an injury site and assist in the initial process of wound healing. There are many biochemical factors contained within the platelet which are immediately released at an injury site. These factors include Platelet-Derived Growth Factor (PDGF), Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF), Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) and Fibroblast Growth Factor-2 (FGF-2) among several other healing and growth factors. The combination of these biochemical growth factors initiate and enhance the body’s process of healing and tissue recovery after injury.
Since platelets are contained in the blood system they can be easily harvested from a patient’s own blood. A tube of blood can be drawn from the patient then placed into a centrifuge which spins the blood to separate it into the various components of the blood system. The separated layer containing the concentrated platelets is considered the “platelet rich plasma” or PRP. This layer is removed and can be used in various medical situations in order to enhance tissue regeneration and healing. Platelet rich plasma has been used for many years to assist in the healing process. It has been primarily used in the hospital setting in various operative orthopedic procedures. Recently the process has been used in other areas of medicine and surgery with favorable results.
The stimulation of tissue regeneration and enhanced healing properties of PRP has recently been used in various areas of hair restoration. It has been found to be helpful in preserving the viability of hair follicle grafts during hair transplant procedures and to enhance the tissue healing and promote hair growth in transplanted follicles. These benefits can result in improved graft survival and better hair transplant outcomes.
PRP has also been used in areas of thinning hair in an attempt to awaken dormant hair follicles or revitalize failing hair follicles that are producing small miniaturized hairs. The treatment consists of applying PRP to the scalp after making small incisions in the areas of failing hair follicles. The intent of the treatment is for the biochemical growth factors within the PRP to chemically assist these follicles in producing more normal appearing hair. Preliminary results indicate that over the next four months hair growth in the treated area is enhanced and hair shaft diameter is increased. This enhanced growth begins to decline after the fourth month making it appear to be a temporary effect.
Although the use of PRP is becoming more common in clinical practice, it is still considered experimental and will need further study to determine its clinical relevance and long term benefits. As we collect further data on such treatments, protocols can be considered for the use of PRP in clinical hair transplant practice.