Autologous Conditioned Plasma (ACP)
Over the past two decades, scientists and physicians have been researching the positive benefits of biological treatement for injuries. This “next frontier” of medicine focuses on using the body’s own healing processes to speed up or complete the recovery process from injury.
Cells are the basic building blocks of the human body. Each cell has an idividual function and works together with other cells like it to form a body tissue (bone, muscle, brain, etc.) The tissues of the body are continually undergoing microscopic damages and repairing themselves. All cells start out with the ability to become any of a number of types of cells, and it is the environment surrounding a new cell that determines this process.
In an ideal setting, an injured muscle, cartilage, or bone cell is replaced directly with a cell that is every bit as strong as the original cell. Unfortunately, in many instances injured cells are replaced with scar tissue which is not nearly as effective as the “real thing.” This can leave the overall tissue weaker or more painful than before the injury. In addition, sometimes the injured tissue is not capable of healing quickly. One way of thinking of this is to imagine a climber’s rope being torn and then repaired with dental floss- it would hold the two torn ends together, but no climber would dare trust its strength.
For many years scientists have searched for ways to understand and control the process of a new cell (stem cell) maturing into an adult cell. Several messenger substances have been identified that serve as the directors of this process: IGF, PDGF, TGF, BMP, MMP are a few. These microscopic molecules are produced by the body naturally and when delivered to stem cells have dramatic effects. We are many years from understanding the exact way in which these factors interact with stem cells.
Recently, however, some patients and physicians have begun to experiment with use of these molecules in injured human tissues. Because the process involves a simple blood draw and office based injection and uses only the patient’s own blood, the risks are very few. After the blood is drawn, it is spun rapidly in a device called a centrifuge. This separates out the platelets and the special molecules they contain. The molecules are then injected directly into the site of injury. The hope is that high concentrations of these naturally occuring substances will speed up healing.
Injuries where this technology can be applied include muscle and tendon tears, joint surface cartilage injuries, and fractures. Most insurance companies do not cover this treatment. Dr Christoforetti does offer this service to select patients and consultation is required prior to scheduing.