Cytokines are signaling molecules that include proteins called growth factors and interleukins. Most emerging research in osteoarthritis, pain, and tendons focuses on manipulating these proteins to address orthopedic injuries. These proteins send signals to cells when repair begins. Cytokines are at the frontline of healing; they drive the cells of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue matrix to repair. Cytokines give the repair orders at the cellular level promoting healing from the cells to tissue. Following trauma our body releases a cytokine “cocktail” that determines the type of repair needed to rebuild connective tissue.
When an injury occurs, the body naturally recruits growth factors to the site of injury much like a “mobile paramedics.” However, there is also an overflow that can interfere with some of the repair which explains why so often, natural repair is limited. By using combinations of certain cytokines like growth factors and interleukins, we can now tailor repair based on specific tissue (tendon or cartilage).
These FDA registered oral cytokines are used both before and after PRP & regenerative procedures to customize a desired biologic effect depending on the individuals baseline level of inflammation & underlying capacity to heal. No two patients are alike and utilizing cytokine therapy allows us to control some variables that have limited the body’s capacity to self heal. We find that simply increasing the amplitude of growth factors with PRP is not enough in some cases & we can now specifically increase or decrease particular proteins based on the individual. More and more technology in regenerative medicine will target this specific need to customize therapy.