Growth Factor and Catabolic Cytokine
Concentrations Are Influenced by the
Cellular Composition of Platelet-Rich Plasma
Emily A. Sundman,* Brian J. Cole,yMD, MBA, and Lisa A. Fortier,*zDVM, PhD
Investigation performed at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Background: Previous studies of bioactive molecules in platelet-rich plasma (PRP) have documented growth factor concentra-
tions that promote tissue healing. However, the effects of leukocytes and inflammatory molecules in PRP have not been defined.
Hypothesis: The hypothesis for this study was that the concentration of growth factors and catabolic cytokines would be depen-
dent on the cellular composition of PRP.
Study Design: Controlled laboratory study.
Methods: Platelet-rich plasma was made from 11 human volunteers using 2 commercial systems: Arthrex ACP (Autologous Con-
ditioned Plasma) Double Syringe System (PRP-1), which concentrates platelets and minimizes leukocytes, and Biomet GPS III
Mini Platelet Concentrate System (PRP-2), which concentrates both platelets and leukocytes. Transforming growth factor-b1
(TGF-b1), platelet-derived growth factor–AB (PDGF-AB), matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9), and interleukin-1b (IL-1b) were
measured with enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).
Results: The PRP-1 system consisted of concentrated platelets (1.993) and diminished leukocytes (0.133) compared with blood,
while PRP-2 contained concentrated platelets (4.693) and leukocytes (4.263) compared with blood. Growth factors were signif-
icantly increased in PRP-2 compared with PRP-1 (TGF-b1: PRP-2 = 89 ng/mL, PRP-1 = 20 ng/mL, P\.05; PDGF-AB: PRP-2 =
22 ng/mL, PRP-1 = 6.4 ng/mL, P \ .05). The PRP-1 system did not have a higher concentration of PDGF-AB compared with
whole blood. Catabolic cytokines were significantly increased in PRP-2 compared with PRP-1 (MMP-9: PRP-2 = 222 ng/mL,
PRP-1 = 40 ng/mL, P \ .05; IL-1b: PRP-2 = 3.67 pg/mL, PRP-1 = 0.31 pg/mL, P \ .05). Significant, positive correlations
were found between TGF-b1 and platelets (r2= .75, P\.001), PDGF-AB and platelets (r2= .60, P\.001), MMP-9 and neutrophils
(r2= .37, P \ .001), IL-1b and neutrophils (r2= .73, P \ .001), and IL-1b and monocytes (r2= .75, P \ .001).
Conclusion: Growth factor and catabolic cytokine concentrations were influenced by the cellular composition of PRP. Platelets
increased anabolic signaling and, in contrast, leukocytes increased catabolic signaling molecules. Platelet-rich plasma products
should be analyzed for content of platelets and leukocytes as both can influence the biologic effects of PRP.
Clinical Relevance: Depending on the clinical application, preparations of PRP should be considered based on their ability to
concentrate platelets and leukocytes with sensitivity to pathologic conditions that will benefit most from increased platelet or
reduced leukocyte concentration.
Keywords: platelet-rich plasma; PRP; IL-1b; MMP-9; TGF-b; PDGF; growth factors
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is an autologous therapy
increasingly used in human and veterinary medicine. Plate-
let-rich plasma treatment to promote tissue healing is well
documented in dental, maxillofacial, orthopaedic, and dia-
betic injuries.14,19,24The basis for treatment has historically
centered on maximizing the growth factors found in platelet
a-granules to promote an anabolic environment at the site
of injury. Numerous studies have examined the effects of
PRP in vitro and in vivo, demonstrating benefits including
improved cellular remodeling and decreased time to heal-
ing.1Platelets and PRP have been shown to contain and
release growth factors including transforming growth
factor-b (TGF-b), platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF),
vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and basic fibro-
blast growth factor (bFGF). There are numerous ways to
generate PRP, and the molecular characterization of PRP
is typically limited to platelet and growth factor analysis
despite concerns for the effects of concentrated leukocytes
in the production of PRP.24,31Leukocytes contain and pro-
duce biologically active cytokines that are primarily cata-
bolic or inflammatory in nature and might influence the
clinical outcome of PRP application.
zAddress correspondence to Lisa A. Fortier, DVM, PhD, VMC C3-181,
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
*Department of Clinical Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
yDepartments of Orthopedics and Anatomy and Cell Biology, Rush
University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois.
One or more of the authors has declared the following potential con-
flict of interest or source of funding: The study was funded by Arthrex Inc
(Naples, Florida). Drs Fortier and Cole are paid consultants for Arthrex.
The American Journal of Sports Medicine, Vol. XX, No. X
? 2011 The Author(s)
AJSM PreView, published on August 16, 2011 as doi:10.1177/0363546511417792
Commercial preparations vary dramatically in their
ability to concentrate platelets and leukocytes. The major-
ity of PRP research does not investigate the effects of leu-
kocytes and catabolism. However, delivery of concentrated
leukocytes to a site of injury might not provide a favorable
environment for tissue repair or healing.7,23In support of
this, our laboratory demonstrated that leukocyte concen-
tration is positively correlated with catabolic gene expres-
sion in tendon and ligament and negatively correlated
with tendon and ligament matrix gene expression.13
The objective of this study was to compare 2 commercial
systems that generate PRP: Arthrex ACP (Autologous Condi-
tioned Plasma) Double Syringe System (hereafter called
PRP-1) (Arthrex Inc, Naples, Florida) and Biomet GPS III
Mini Platelet Concentrate Separation Kit (hereafter called
PRP-2) (Biomet Inc, Warsaw, Indiana). Comparisons of cellu-
lar composition of each formulation of PRP and venous blood
were followed with evaluation of growth factors and catabolic
mediators to characterize the signaling environment pro-
vided by these disparate products with the knowledge that
PRP-1 concentrates platelets and minimizes leukocytes and
PRP-2 concentrates both platelets and leukocytes compared
with blood. We hypothesized that the anabolic growth factors
TGF-b1 and PDGF-AB would positively correlate to platelet
concentration, and the catabolic cytokines, matrix-metallo-
proteinase 9 (MMP-9), and interleukin-1b (IL-1b) would pos-
itively correlate to leukocyte concentration.
All procedures were approved by university institutional
Venous blood was collected from 11 healthy human volun-
teers into acid-citrate dextrose A (ACD-A) anticoagulant
(1 mL ACD-A/10 mL blood). Each blood sample was divided
and used to generate PRP using both systems. Neither
PRP was buffered or activated after processing. Platelet,
leukocyte (white blood cell [WBC]) concentrations, and
hematocrit were determined in single 500-mL samples of
venous blood, PRP-1, and PRP-2 using an ADVIA 2120
automated cell counter (Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics,
Deerfield, Illinois). Samples were snap-frozen in individual
aliquots for each enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay
(ELISA) and stored at –80?C for analyses.
Growth Factor and Catabolic Cytokine Quantification
Growth factors and catabolic cytokines were measured in
duplicate aliquots using ELISAs after a freeze-thaw pro-
cess. Total TGF-b1 concentrations were determined using
the TGFb1EmaxImmunoAssay System (Promega Corpora-
tion, Madison, Wisconsin) and PDGF-AB was measured
using the PDGF-AB Quantikine ELISA Kit (R&D Systems,
Minneapolis, Minnesota). Total MMP-9 concentration was
determined using the MMP-9 Biotrak Activity Assay (GE
Healthcare Biosciences, Piscataway, New Jersey) and IL-
1b concentrations were measured with the IL-1 beta/IL-
1F2 Quantikine HS ELISA Kit (R&D Systems). Samples
were analyzed using a multiple detection plate reader
(Tecan SAFIRE, Durham, North Carolina).
General analysis of variance with the Tukey post hoc test
was performed on platelet, WBC, and hematocrit concen-
trations, as well as TGF-b1, PDGF-AB, and MMP-9 con-
centrations. A 2-sample t test was performed on platelet
concentrations, cell count fold changes, and IL-1b concen-
trations. The IL-1b assay used was not validated for
strongly hemolyzed samples, and therefore whole blood
samples, which were hemolyzed after freeze-thaw, were
not assayed and only PRP-1 and PRP-2 were compared.
Preliminary studies demonstrated spike and recovery tests
of PRP-1 and PRP-2 that were consistent with those pub-
lished by R&D Systems (data not shown). Pearson correla-
tion analyses were performed on TGF-b1 and PDGF-AB
with platelet concentrations, and MMP-9 and IL-1b with
WBC concentrations. Cell counts and ELISA values were
normally distributed. Statistical analyses were performed
on mean values of duplicates using Statistix 9 software
(Analytical Software, Tallahassee, Florida) and signifi-
cance was set at P \ .05.
Both systems produced approximately 3 mL PRP from
a starting venous blood volume of 10 mL (PRP-1) or 30 mL
Platelet, White Blood Cell, and Hematocrit Concentrations in Venous Blood, PRP-1, and PRP-2*
Platelets 3 103/mL White Blood Cells 3 103/mLHematocrit
Mean 6 SD RangeMean 6 SDRangeMean 6 SD Range
183 6 39.6ay
361 6 87.0ay
701 6 473b
5.66 6 1.41a
0.68 6 0.42c
23.7 6 5.91b
35.1 6 2.51a
0.46 6 0.52c
4.82 6 1.83b
*N = 11. Superscript letters indicate significant difference between groups, but within hematocrit, white blood cell, or platelet-rich plasma
(PRP), by analysis of variance with Tukey post hoc test, P \ .05.
yIndicates significant difference between venous blood and PRP-1 using 2-sample t test, P \ .05.
2Sundman et al The American Journal of Sports Medicine
(PRP-2). Platelet concentration in PRP-2 was significantly
higher than other samples (Table 1). Blood and PRP-1 plate-
let concentration were statistically different when compared
with each other. White blood cells were significantly differ-
ent between all groups. Platelets and WBC fold changes
(PRP value/whole blood value) were significantly higher in
PRP-2 compared with PRP-1 (Figure 1). The predominant
leukocyte in PRP-1 was lymphocytes (71.9%). The predomi-
nant leukocytes in PRP-2 were lymphocytes and neutrophils
(82.4%). There was a 73-fold difference in neutrophils
between PRP-2 and PRP-1 and a 23-fold difference in mono-
cytes between PRP-2 and PRP-1 (Table 2).
Growth Factor Concentration: PDGF-AB and TGF-b1
The PDGF-AB concentration was significantly higher in
PRP-2 than in other groups (Figure 2A). There was no sta-
tistically significant difference between blood and PRP-1.
There was a positive correlation between PDGF-AB and
platelets that was significant (Figure 3B; r2= .60, P \
0.001). The TGF-b1 concentrations were significantly dif-
ferent for all groups, with PRP-2 as the highest concentra-
tion and blood as the lowest concentration (Figure 2A).
There was a positive correlation between TGF-b1 and pla-
telets that was significant (Figure 3A; r2= .75, P \0.001).
Catabolic Mediator Concentration: MMP-9 and IL-1b
between the PRP groups, with PRP-2 having the highest con-
centration and PRP-1 the lowest concentration (Figure 2B).
There was a positive correlation between MMP-9 and neutro-
phils (Figure 4; r2= .37, P \ .001). The IL-1b concentration
was significantly higher in PRP-2 compared with PRP-1
(Figure 2B). There was a positive correlation between IL-1b
and neutrophils (Figure 5A; r2= .73, P\.001), and a positive
correlation between IL-1b and monocytes (Figure 5B; r2=
.75, P \ .001) that were both significant.
MMP-9 concentrationwassignificantly different
The findings of this study support our hypothesis that plate-
let and leukocyte composition of PRP reflects the concentra-
tion of growth factors and catabolic cytokines. The PRP-2
system had the highest concentration of both platelets and
leukocytes, while PRP-1 had concentrated platelets com-
pared with blood, but diluted leukocytes compared with
blood. Correlation statistics between platelets and growth
factors, and specific leukocytes and catabolic mediators, con-
firmed an association between the cellular content of the
PRP with signaling molecules.
Our findings support other studies demonstrating that
PRP concentrates platelets and therefore the growth factors
contained in a-granules.13,25Both TGF-b1 and PDGF-AB
are desirable in wound healing for their biochemical modifi-
cations of the local environment. Transforming growth
factor–b1 has previously been show to improve collagen syn-
thesis and deposition in vitro.10,18Platelet-derived growth
factor has been shown to be chemotactic to macrophages
Figure 1. Hematocrit, leukocyte, and platelet concentrations
in platelet-rich plasma–1 (PRP-1) or PRP-2 divided by venous
blood to generate a fold change. Bars represent mean 6
standard deviation of n = 11. Asterisks represent difference
between groups, but within hematocrit, white blood cell, or
platelet fold changes by 2-sample t test, P \ .05.
Leukocyte Composition of PRP-1 and PRP-2a
Leukocytes/mLPercentage of Total Leukocytes
Leukocyte Mean 6 SDRange Mean 6 SDRangeMean 6 SDRange Mean 6 SDRange
109 6 202
791 6 303
91 6 176
91 6 122
8455 6 7412
12 810 6 3438
2236 6 698
2046 6 933
173 6 47
109 6 83
5.77 6 9.2
73.9 6 14.5
5.46 6 6.6
6.13 6 6.4
29.5 6 17.0
51.9 6 12.4
9.07 6 2.3
8.40 6 4.1
0.71 6 0.19
0.42 6 0.26
aN = 11. Leukocyte composition in platelet-rich plasma (PRP) was determined using an automated cell counter. The mean count of eosi-
nophils and basophils in PRP-1 was 0.
Vol. XX, No. X, XXXX Growth Factor and Cytokine Concentrations Influenced by PRP Composition3
and fibroblasts, improve glycosaminoglycan and fibronectin
deposition, and increase cell activity early in healing.12,17,27
Transforming growth factor–b1 and PDGF-BB have been
shown to decrease healing time in experimentally induced
wounds; however, PDGF-AB is the primary isoform of
PDGF in humans, and will bind to both the a and b recep-
tors.3,18Additional studies showed a positive correlation
between platelet concentration and anabolic gene expres-
sion, and between WBCs and catabolic gene expression, fur-
thering interest in a PRP formulation that promotes
anabolism over catabolism, which is best achieved by an
increased ratio of platelets to WBCs.13
The PRP-1 system decreases the concentration of leuko-
cytes compared with whole blood while PRP-2 concentrates
leukocytes. Concentrated leukocytes deliver increased cat-
abolic cytokines to the site of injection, facilitating extra-
cellular matrix breakdown and leukocyte activation.
Neutrophils contain several types of granules that contain
numerous cytokines including collagenases, gelatinases,
lysozymes, elastases, serprocidins, and myeloperoxidase.6
T-lymphocytes contain various interleukins, including IL-
2, 4, 5, 6, 13, 17, 21, and 22; interferon-g (IFN-g), and
tumor necrosis factor–a (TNF-a).2B-lymphocytes contain
fewer but similar cytokines, including IL-6, IL-8, TNF-a,
Figure 2. A, concentration of platelet-derived growth factor–AB (PDGF-AB) and transforming growth factor–b1 (TGF-b1) in
venous whole blood, platelet-rich plasma–1 (PRP-1), and PRP-2. B, concentration of matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) in
blood, PRP-1, and PRP-2 and concentration of interleukin-1b (IL-1b) in PRP-1 and PRP-2. There are no blood samples of IL-
1b because the assay is not validated for strongly hemolyzed samples. Bars represent mean of x 6 standard deviation. Super-
script letters indicate significant difference between groups, but within PDGF-AB, TGF-b1, or MMP-9 by analysis of variance with
Tukey post hoc test, P\.05. Asterisks indicate significant difference between PRP-1 and PRP-2 using 2-sample t test, P\.05.
Figure 3. Correlations between (A) transforming growth factor–b1 (TGF-b1) and platelets and (B), platelet-derived growth factor–AB
(PDGF-AB) and platelets in venous blood, platelet-rich plasma–1 (PRP-1), and PRP-2. Linear regression is shown with solid line.
4Sundman et alThe American Journal of Sports Medicine
and IL-1b.16Circulating monocytes have 2 phenotypes in
similar concentrations, one of which is clearly proinflam-
matory and contains numerous cytokines including cathep-
sin B, L, and S; MMP-2, 3, 9, 13; and TNF-a, while the
other phenotype is more balanced between being proin-
flammatory and proangiogenic.15While growth factor
treatment has been shown to modulate the effects of cata-
bolic cytokines, including TGF-b1’s ability to decrease
IL-1b receptor transcription and binding ability while pro-
moting synthesis of IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra), this
ability might be overwhelmed by an excess of WBCs.20,22
Evaluation of potential extracellular matrix degradation
was based on MMP-9 concentration, as neutrophil-derived
MMP-9 is known to degrade collagen and other extracellu-
larmatrixmolecules and hasbeenimplicated asa predicator
of poor healing.4,30In our study, MMP-9 concentration was
positively correlated with neutrophils, with the highest con-
centration in PRP-2. Matrix metalloproteinase–9 has been
shown in several studies to be a component of nonhealing,
or poorly healing wounds.11,29,32While this study only mea-
sured total MMP-9, it has been demonstrated that inactive
MMP-9 can be converted to active MMP-9 during inflamma-
tion and that measuring higher total MMP-9 can accurately
reflect lower active MMP-9 levels.8,21
Evaluation of potential local inflammation was based on
IL-1b in PRP. IL-1b concentration was positively correlated
with neutrophils and monocytes, with the highest concentra-
tion in PRP-2. Interleukin-1b has been shown in numerous
studies to be a primary cytokine for inflammation and matrix
degradation, including cancers, autoinflammatory diseases,
trauma, and tendinitis and it is a common target to decrease
inflammation via manipulation of IL-1ra.5,9,26,29Specifically,
human tendon cells treated with IL-1b demonstrated
increased catabolic gene expression including cyclooxyge-
nase-2; MMP-1, 3, and 13; and cytosolic phospholipase A2.
In addition, IL-1b treatment caused continued upregulation
of IL-1b.26,28Injured human rotator cuffs have been shown
to have increased IL-1b in the tendon along with other proin-
Anabolism requires low levels of leukocytes; concen-
trated leukocytes might overwhelm the effects of addi-
tional growthfactors though
redundant cytokines in peripheral leukocytes. Interleu-
kin-1b treatment of cultured chondrocytes has been shown
to antagonize transcription factor binding and induced sig-
naling of TGF-b1.7,23The optimal balance between anabo-
lism and catabolism for tissue repair augmentation and the
concentration of growth factors and cytokines required to
maintain this balance remains unclear. Concentrations of
cytokines or growth factors used in laboratory studies are
typically greater than those present in PRP, and they are
also typically tested in isolation or with 1 other growth fac-
tor or cytokine, while PRP represents a biologically active
Figure 4. Correlation between matrix metalloproteinase-9
(MMP-9) and neutrophils in venous blood, platelet-rich
plasma–1 (PRP-1), and PRP-2. Linear regression is shown
with solid line.
Figure 5. Correlations between interleukin-1b (IL-1b) and (A)
neutrophils and (B) monocytes in platelet-rich plasma–1
(PRP-1) and PRP-2. Linear regression is shown with solid
Vol. XX, No. X, XXXX Growth Factor and Cytokine Concentrations Influenced by PRP Composition5
milieu. It is therefore not accurate to extrapolate potential Download full-text
biologic effects of PRP based on growth factor or cytokine
concentrations. The catabolic effects of WBCs in PRP
need to be investigated in order to determine the effects
on tissue homeostasis. Our results suggest that effects of
PRP are not just attributable to concentrated platelets,
but to a ratio of platelets to WBCs and, by extension, ana-
bolic signaling molecules to catabolic cytokines. Depending
upon the clinical application, commercial preparations of
PRP should be considered based upon their ability to con-
centrate platelets and leukocytes with sensitivity to patho-
logic conditions that will benefit most from increased
platelets or reduced leukocyte concentration. Leukocytes
contain active cytokines capable of eliciting an inflamma-
tory response and degrading normal tissue matrix and it
is presently unclear which clinical situations, acute or
chronic, soft tissue or intra-articular, would benefit from
application of PRP rich in WBCs. Additional studies are
needed to investigate whether these differences in catabolic
signaling molecules have biologic effects in vivo. In addition,
future in vivo research will be needed to determine the rela-
tive importance of absolute threshold levels of platelets (and
growth factors) and leukocytes compared with the ratio of
platelets to leukocytes.
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6Sundman et al The American Journal of Sports Medicine