Effects of Aspirin on Growth Factor Release From Freshly Isolated Leukocyte-Rich Platelet-Rich Plasma in Healthy Men: A Prospective Fixed-Sequence Controlled Laboratory Study

Am J Sports Med. 2019 Apr;47(5):1223-1229. doi: 10.1177/0363546519827294. Epub 2019 Mar 19.


Background: The benefits of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) are believed to be in part dependent on growth factor release after platelet activation. Platelet activation is complex and involves multiple mechanisms. One important mechanism is driven by cyclooxygenase 1 (COX-1)-mediated conversion of arachidonic acid (AA) to precursor prostaglandins that then mediate proinflammatory responses that trigger growth factor release. Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA; also known as aspirin) is known to irreversibly inhibit COX-1, thereby blocking AA-mediated signaling; however, it is unclear whether ASA use alters growth factor release from freshly isolated PRP.

Purpose: To assess the effects of low-dose ASA use on activation of growth factor release from freshly isolated human PRP via AA and thrombin (TBN).

Study design: Controlled laboratory study.

Methods: Twelve healthy men underwent blood collection and leukocyte-rich PRP (LR-PRP) preparation through a double-spin protocol to obtain baseline whole blood and PRP counts the same day. PRP was aliquoted into 3 groups: nonactivated, AA activated, and TBN activated. Immediately after activation, the concentrations of transforming growth factor β1 (TGF-β1), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and platelet-derived growth factor AB (PDGF-AB) were measured using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs). The same 12 participants were then placed on an 81-mg daily dose of oral ASA for 14 days. Repeat characterization of whole blood and PRP analyses was done on day 14, followed by repeat ELISAs of growth factors under the same nonactivated and activated settings as previously stated.

Results: Fourteen days of daily ASA had no effect on the number of platelets and leukocytes measured in whole blood and LR-PRP. Compared with nonactivated LR-PRP, AA- and TBN-mediated activation led to significant release of VEGF and PDGF-AB. In contrast, release of TGF-β1 from LR-PRP was observed only with activation by AA, not with TBN. Consistent with its inhibitory role in AA signaling, ASA significantly inhibited AA-mediated release of all 3 growth factors measured in this study. Although ASA had no effect on TBN-mediated release of VEGF and TGF-β1 from LR-PRP, ASA did partially block TBN-mediated release of PDGF-AB, although the mechanism remains unclear.

Conclusion: Daily use of low-dose ASA reduces VEGF, PDGF-AB, and TGF-β1 expression in freshly isolated human LR-PRP when activated with AA.

Clinical relevance: Reduction in growth factor release attributed to daily use of low-dose ASA or other COX inhibitors can be mitigated when PRP samples are activated with TBN. Clinical studies are needed to determine whether activation before PRP injection is needed in all applications where ASA is in use and to what extent ASA may inhibit growth factor release in vivo at the site of injury.

Keywords: COX-1; NSAIDs; activation; aspirin; platelet rich plasma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aspirin / pharmacology*
  • Blood Platelets / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Leukocytes / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Platelet Activation / drug effects
  • Platelet-Derived Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Platelet-Rich Plasma / drug effects*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Thrombin / metabolism
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1 / metabolism
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / analysis
  • Young Adult


  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Platelet-Derived Growth Factor
  • TGFB1 protein, human
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • platelet-derived growth factor AB
  • Thrombin
  • Aspirin