Courtesy of Kentucky Equine Research
Platelets are specialized cells that circulate in the blood, uniting with one another and forming clots when they recognize compromised blood vessels. When platelets are harvested from horses and concentrated to create platelet-rich plasma (PRP), veterinarians can apply them to wounds, inject them into injured tendons and ligaments, use them for horses with laminitis or endometritis, and even infuse them into joints to help with osteoarthritis.
“The power of platelets stems from the fact that they are tiny factories housing a wide array of growth factors that facilitate healing,” explained Laura Petroski-Rose, B.V.M.S., a Kentucky Equine Research veterinarian.
Unfortunately, the lifespan of PRP is short, necessitating its use within a few days of preparation. If the PRP is frozen for storage, many of the platelets die or their growth factors release prematurely, making efficacy questionable. As horses frequently receive multiple PRP treatments, having a way to freeze the product instead of making a new preparation each time would be beneficial.
While various methods to cryopreserve PRP have been explored, researchers recently tried a combination of dimethyl sulfoxide, a solvent, and trehalose, a sugar, to help the preservation process. After thawing the PRP and comparing it to fresh PRP, the researchers concluded that this was an effective method. Significant levels of growth factors were released from cryopreserved PRP, and the overall number of platelets in the frozen samples appeared adequate.
“Fresh still appears best based on the data, but at least we are beginning to create options that would permit a longer shelf-life on PRP,” noted Petroski-Rose.
Other options to support healing musculoskeletal injuries include offering nutritional supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid, and fish oils that possess natural anti-inflammatory properties.