Modification of Pulsed Electric Field Conditions Results in Distinct Activation Profiles of Platelet-Rich Plasma

PLoS One. 2016 Aug 24;11(8):e0160933. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0160933. eCollection 2016.


Background: Activated autologous platelet-rich plasma (PRP) used in therapeutic wound healing applications is poorly characterized and standardized. Using pulsed electric fields (PEF) to activate platelets may reduce variability and eliminate complications associated with the use of bovine thrombin. We previously reported that exposing PRP to sub-microsecond duration, high electric field (SMHEF) pulses generates a greater number of platelet-derived microparticles, increased expression of prothrombotic platelet surfaces, and differential release of growth factors compared to thrombin. Moreover, the platelet releasate produced by SMHEF pulses induced greater cell proliferation than plasma.

Aims: To determine whether sub-microsecond duration, low electric field (SMLEF) bipolar pulses results in differential activation of PRP compared to SMHEF, with respect to profiles of activation markers, growth factor release, and cell proliferation capacity.

Methods: PRP activation by SMLEF bipolar pulses was compared to SMHEF pulses and bovine thrombin. PRP was prepared using the Harvest SmartPreP2 System from acid citrate dextrose anticoagulated healthy donor blood. PEF activation by either SMHEF or SMLEF pulses was performed using a standard electroporation cuvette preloaded with CaCl2 and a prototype instrument designed to take into account the electrical properties of PRP. Flow cytometry was used to assess platelet surface P-selectin expression, and annexin V binding. Platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), endothelial growth factor (EGF) and platelet factor 4 (PF4), and were measured by ELISA. The ability of supernatants to stimulate proliferation of human epithelial cells in culture was also evaluated. Controls included vehicle-treated, unactivated PRP and PRP with 10 mM CaCl2 activated with 1 U/mL bovine thrombin.

Results: PRP activated with SMLEF bipolar pulses or thrombin had similar light scatter profiles, consistent with the presence of platelet-derived microparticles, platelets, and platelet aggregates whereas SMHEF pulses primarily resulted in platelet-derived microparticles. Microparticles and platelets in PRP activated with SMLEF bipolar pulses had significantly lower annexin V-positivity than those following SMHEF activation. In contrast, the % P-selectin positivity and surface P-selectin expression (MFI) for platelets and microparticles in SMLEF bipolar pulse activated PRP was significantly higher than that in SMHEF-activated PRP, but not significantly different from that produced by thrombin activation. Higher levels of EGF were observed following either SMLEF bipolar pulses or SMHEF pulses of PRP than after bovine thrombin activation while VEGF, PDGF, and PF4 levels were similar with all three activating conditions. Cell proliferation was significantly increased by releasates of both SMLEF bipolar pulse and SMHEF pulse activated PRP compared to plasma alone.

Conclusions: PEF activation of PRP at bipolar low vs. monopolar high field strength results in differential platelet-derived microparticle production and activation of platelet surface procoagulant markers while inducing similar release of growth factors and similar capacity to induce cell proliferation. Stimulation of PRP with SMLEF bipolar pulses is gentler than SMHEF pulses, resulting in less platelet microparticle generation but with overall activation levels similar to that obtained with thrombin. These results suggest that PEF provides the means to alter, in a controlled fashion, PRP properties thereby enabling evaluation of their effects on wound healing and clinical outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Coagulation
  • Blood Platelets / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell-Derived Microparticles / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • Platelet Activation*
  • Platelet-Rich Plasma*
  • Pulsed Radiofrequency Treatment*
  • Wound Healing


  • Biomarkers
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins

Grant support

This work was funded by a research grant from GE Healthcare to Boston Children's Hospital, Principal Investigator, ALF. The funders participated in study design, data collection, and preparation of the manuscript, but had no role in data analysis or the decision to publish.