PLASMA PRODUCTS ON THE RISE PRP, IRAP, and Serum-Based Bioactive Proteins

Part two of a six-part series

In Part One of this series, we introduced a new product, oral plasma protein, to ProEquest readers.  This product, used with profound success for thirty years in farm animals, was developed for the equine market in 2014, and is marketed as LIFELINE®.  In Part Two we will examine the plasma products that have come into use in the past decade.

Equestrian sports are unique in that they involve an incomparable partnership between two athletes:  rider and horse.  The bond between the two is deep and abiding, and the talented and hard-working equine athletes trust their guardians to give them the care that allows them to thrive.

Those involved in breeding may already be familiar with hanging a bag of plasma to help a newborn foal fight disease.  In the last five to ten years, additional uses of plasma products have been gaining in popularity, including platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and autologous protein solution (APS or IRAP), and now serum-based bioactive proteins in oral form (LIFELINE®).

These are distinct products with wholly different rationales for their use, though all are indeed derived from blood. All target the performance horse, as these equine athletes are susceptible to musculoskeletal injuries and joint disease, as well as stress-related respiratory and intestinal issues resulting from the demands of intense training regimens and tight travel and competition schedules.

The delivery systems for PRP and IRAP are similar.  Both involve drawing blood from the horse, putting it through an enhancement process, and then injecting the enhanced plasma or serum back into the targeted tissue via ultrasound guidance.  The serum-based proteins are delivered orally, twice daily at feeding time.

 AJVR,2014;75:141, Fig 1 p 143 - Bertone — Evaluation of a single intra-articular injection of autologous protein solution for treatment of osteoarthritis in horses.      

PRP for Acute Injuries

PRP Is an acronym for Platelet Rich Plasma, and as its name suggests, the platelets are concentrated within the plasma fraction of blood.  PRP strictly refers to a plasma product containing platelets at a concentration significantly greater than whole blood.

Platelets contain a substantial number of growth factors, and during the process of separating plasma from blood cells, most of the platelets remain in the plasma, which then undergoes a process to further concentrate the platelets.

PRP stimulates new blood vessel and connective tissue formation, and skin regeneration, making it particularly useful in acute tendon or ligament injuries which frequently have difficulty healing due to poor vasculature.


IRAP for Chronic Joint Problems

IRAP and the Serum-Based Proteins differ from PRP in that they are serum products.  After plasma is separated out from whole blood, the resulting fluid is ‘serum.’ 

An acronym for Interleukin Receptor Antagonist Protein, IRAP is used primarily to inhibit the inflammatory cascade incited by IL-1, a protein which is released in cases of trauma or disease.  In a healthy joint, IL-1 and the Receptor Antagonists keep each other in check.  However, in the presence of trauma the proportion of these proteins gets out of balance, resulting in inflammation, pain, and swelling.  In chronic joint trauma, IL-1 plays a key role in accelerating cartilage destruction, which then triggers the release of more IL-1, and a vicious cycle begins.

IL-1 belongs to a family of proteins that trigger the immune system to send inflammatory cells to the site of an injury or infection.  IRAP was developed to counteract the IL-1 that is produced in the traumatized joint and to slow the progression of osteoarthritis.  It works by preventing IL-1 from binding to the IL-1 receptors in the joint (it is a receptor ‘antagonist’), thereby blocking the damage and inflammation caused by IL-1.


Serum-Based Bioactive Proteins for Stress Relief

Differing in purpose, but with similar ingredients, serum-based bioactive proteins have a more generalized application than that of IRAP or PRP.  Derived from bovine plasma sourced from the meat processing industry, the creators of LIFELINE® developed a proprietary process for fractioning plasma, concentrating specific proteins in the serum.  The serum is spray-dried into a fine powder, preserving the bioactive proteins, which can then be combined with other ingredients to create palatable oral products for animals.

Top-level equine athletes, as a result of the stressors of a competition season, can be negatively affected by a normal immune response that recruits inflammatory cells to local tissue sites to produce inflammation that can cause muscle soreness, breathing problems, and intestinal discomfort.  The bioactive proteins in LIFELINE® have proven effective in reducing the stress-induced overstimulation of the immune system that causes these multi-systemic symptoms.

All of these plasma products, each different from the other in scope and purpose, have been developed to keep the hard-working performance horse doing what he/she does best. 


Next week, Part Three will present a more in-depth discussion of how the horses immune system works.