Study: PRP Gel Accelerates Skin Wound Healing in Horses

Speeding up wound healing helped reduce the risk of infections and sepsis in rescue horses with skin wounds.
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wounds treated  with the autologous PRP gel
Jack, one of the rescue horses in the study, was treated with the autologous PRP gel. | Courtesy Urwah Khan

If horse owners don’t quickly and adequately address wounds in horses, it can delay healing or fuel suboptimized healing processes, leading to the lesions becoming chronic. Nonhealing wounds can become infected and eventually cause sepsis (overwhelming bacterial infection of the body) in horses if left untreated, which can potentially become life threatening for the animals. A scientist in Pakistan recently reported that using platelet-rich plasma (PRP) could be a safe, effective approach to promoting expedited wound healing in horses.

“Wound repair in equids can be accomplished with platelet-rich plasma gel, which is made from autologous platelets,” meaning they’re obtained from the blood of the same individual, said Muhammad Talha Sajjad, DVM, MPhil, PhD, of the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, in Punjab.

“Platelets are natural polypeptides (molecules that contain long chains of amino acids) and present a rich source of growth factors essential to natural skin wound healing,” Sajjad added. Applying autologous PRP gel is not only fully biocompatible (without any side effects), he said, but also a feasible approach to accelerating cutaneous wound healing in equids.

In the first part of a three-phase study, Sajjad and his colleagues applied an autologous PRP gel to chronic wounds on 10 rescue horses that were 5- to 10 years old to investigate its effect on wound healing. (For comparison the researchers treated a control age-matched group of 10 rescue horses with sterile saline.)

Next, they evaluated the impact of the gel and control treatment on cutaneous wound healing using ultrasonography and cytokeratin staining, which involves using a special dye to identify the extent of redeveloped blood vessels and epithelial (skin) cells, he added. The researchers assessed wound healing in both groups of horses on Days 8, 40, and 60, and on Days 40 and 60 they observed significantly increased wound healing in the autologous PRP gel group compared to the controls.

“During the third phase, we explored the efficacy of autologous and homologous (obtained from blood donors—also referred to as allogeneic) platelet-rich plasma gel on chronic cutaneous wound healing in rescued donkeys,” he said.

Compared to the control group, the thickness of epithelial cells increased in wounds treated with autologous PRP gel. Applying PRP gel also significantly increased the number of fibroblasts—cells found in connective tissue and responsible for forming fibers—and newly formed blood vessels as compared to the control horses.  

“The repaired skin wounds (with PRP gel) have more tensile strength and a better cosmetic appearance,” Sajjad explained. “Wound healing occurred within a relatively short period of time.”

He added that this could make PRP treatment especially applicable in chronic wounds. “Extensive wounds such as burns take more time to heal,” Sajjad said. “During the healing process, animals are at a higher risk of developing wound infections and sepsis due to bacteria.”

The PRP gel encourages re-epithelialization and accelerates skin wound healing by promoting wound contraction and stabilization of the collagen fiber arrangement, he suggested, which can reduce the risk of developing wound infections and sepsis.

Working with rescued horses and donkeys at a shelter in Pakistan, the treatment cost and healing time associated with conventional methods have always been serious concerns, Sajjad said. “Introducing PRP gel into our treatment protocols has yielded outstanding results in terms of safety, reduced healing time, cost-effectiveness, and improved tensile strength of the redeveloped skin.”

The study, “The Therapeutic Effects of Autologous Platelet-Rich Plasma Gel on Cutaneous Wound Healing in Rescued Horses: The Effects of Autologous Platelet-Rich Plasma Gel on skin Wound Healing in Horses,” appeared in April 2023 in the Journal of the Hellenic Veterinary Medical Society.

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Tanja Bornmann is an equine scientist (MSc, University of Edinburgh, UK), licensed and qualified equestrian coach, writer, and published researcher. Through her business Academic Equitation, she offers her clients a science-based approach to horse training and management. You can follow Tanja on Twitter @academicequitat.  

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