Peptides are gaining popularity among medical as well as sports experts.
These extremely short proteins of only a few amino acids in length are emerging as potent agents that are highly effective with very little or no side effects.
BPC-157 is one of the most interesting compounds that is increasingly being investigated for its effects in healing and tissue repair, as well as in a wide variety of neurological, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
While the evidence supporting the effectiveness of BPC-157 is currently limited to experiments performed in animals, studies in humans are underway to confirm its potential for human health and performance.
What is BPC-157?
BPC-157 is a peptide that naturally occurs in the gastric juice in the stomach. A peptide is an extremely short protein; in the case of BPC-157, it is only 15 amino acids in length.
These peptides are sometimes called synthetic, indicating that they are not ‘natural’, but in this case derived from another longer protein, from which they are cleaved off to produce the shorter peptide.
BPC-157 is derived from the BPC protein present in the gastric juice, and is essential for the activity of BPC. BPC stands for Body Protection Compound, giving an idea of BPC-157’s abilities and potential.
BPC-157 is stable in the gastric juice, which degrades most other proteins in order to prepare them for digestion and absorption. BPC-157 is also known as Bepecin, PL 14736, or PL 10.
BPC-157 is a cytoprotective compound, that, on a molecular level, interacts with and modulates other proteins and their pathways.
These mainly include pathways involved in tissue remodelling and repair, as well as in the reduction of oxidative stress.
Therefore, physiologically, BPC-157 is a peptide that helps to repair tissue and to protect it from further damage.
By exerting these effects, BPC-157 is able to speed up wound and tissue healing, repair and grow new blood vessels, repair the gastrointestinal tract, protect internal organs such as the liver from toxic damage, and to prevent damage of neurons and other cells of the brain.
Based on these molecular properties, BPC-157 is one of the rising stars among potential novel therapeutic agents for injury and diseases ranging from skin burns to Parkinson’s.
Experiments from animal (mainly rodent) models support the effectiveness of BPC-157 and have so far shown no adverse side effects or toxicity associated with the peptide.
Confirmation of efficacy in humans is still missing, but eagerly awaited.
BPC-157 for Healing of Soft Tissue
Soft tissue injuries represent one of the most common groups of injuries, linked to both sporting and everyday activities injuries.
Soft tissue injuries comprise damage occurring to the skeletal muscles, tendons, or ligaments. In the US alone, more than 16 million soft tissue injuries including tendons and ligaments are reported each year, with 300,000 surgeries performed.
The underlying injury is typically a tear in the fiber of the muscle or tendon, which needs to heal in order to be restored. The time required for the injury to heal depends on a great variety of factors, ranging from days to months.
Often, injuries fail to heal completely, leaving the point of injury as a weak spot, with the potential for recurrent damage.
BPC-157 is considered to be of great therapeutic potential for soft tissue damage, based on a range of studies from animal models.
A series of studies investigated the effect of BPC-157 in achilles tendon repair in rats. The results showed that administration of BPC-157 significantly improved recovery, compared to rats that were not treated with the compound.
In those treated with BPC-157, the achilles tendon healed significantly faster than in control animals. In addition, the fibers and collagen structures of the repaired tissues were superior to those that healed spontaneously, indicating that BPC-157 helps to restore tissue closer to its original structure.
This findings were confirmed by another study that showed that tendons healed with BPC-157 were restored to their full integrity and function. Similarly, BPC-157 was also successful in promoting healing of tendons that were detached from the bones (tendon-to-bone healing). Interestingly, BPC-157 also worked in the presence of corticosteroids, which are often used to support soft tissue healing.
BPC-157 also had dramatic effects on muscle healing. Transection of the quadriceps (thigh) muscle is an injury that normally can not be restored by the body, leaving the muscle dysfunctional.
Evidence from rats showed that use of BPC-157 resulted in restoration of the muscle fibre as well as muscle function. In addition, BPC-157 continued to drive healing of the injury over extended periods of time, measured up to 72 days.
Taken together, evidence from animal models clearly shows that BPC-157 has the potential to greatly accelerate healing of soft tissue injuries, and to restore tissue and muscle function to a greater extent than the body’s own repair machinery.
BPC-157 & Gut Healing
BPC-157 has a healing effect on the endothelium, which is the outer layer of mucosal membranes, such as those lining the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
This effect may be particularly important for people suffering from GI injury and its consequences, such as ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).
Here, injury of the large intestine leads to chronic inflammation, and potentially severe symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, anemia, and fever. The long-term and chronic nature, as well as the limited treatment options add to the burden of this potentially debilitating disease.
Evidence from animal models has shown that BPC-157 is able to heal damage of the gut.
Depending on the nature of the damage, BPC-157 was able to repair lesions (direct injury) of the gut lining, build new blood vessels to restore circulation and promote healing, and could bypass any occlusions that may occur from ulcers.
BPC-157 was also able to reduce oxidative stress markers, which are normally associated with inflammation, causing further damage to affected tissue.
While gut damage is often the result of stress-induced internal mechanisms and ulcer formation, BPC-157 also showed very important protective properties against damage from external agents.
Non-steroid anti inflammatory drugs including many readily available painkillers such as ibuprofen and aspirin may induce damage to the stomach, gut, liver, or other internal organs. BPC-157 can reduce the damage and may even serve as an effective antidote to overdoses. In addition, BPC-157 protects the gut and liver from alcohol-induced toxic damage,.
Interestingly, as more is becoming known about the connection between the brain and the gut (brain-gut-axis), BPC-157 and other peptides may be key players in this important balance.
The connection between brain and gut becomes evident by the impact that stress, fear and anxiety for example have on gut health.
BPC-157 has cytoprotective properties in both the gut and the brain, meaning that it protects cells in the gut as well as nerve and other cells in the brain from damage, and restores them after injury, with wide implications in both GI and neurological disorders.
With no toxic side effects known to date, BPC-157 may become a potent agent to use in a great variety of diseases.
BPC-157 & Bodybuilding
In bodybuilding, muscle formation and function are essential for optimal performance and training progress. However, injury often causes a setback and delay in achievement of training goals.
BPC-157 has great potential in supporting systemic healing and in speeding up recovery processes.
So far, BPC-157 has been confirmed to promote rapid healing of damage to skin, soft tissue including tendons, ligaments and muscle fiber, and intestinal/internal tissue. In addition, BPC-157 supports the formation of blood vessels, especially after injury, to optimally support tissue and muscle with oxygen and nutrients.
BPC-157 may therefore be a great supplement during recovery from injury, intense training, or during build up phases.
It is important to note though that studies of BPC-157 in humans are still missing to date. While no toxicity of the compound has been detected in animal models, this is still awaiting confirmation in humans.
Use of BPC-157 is therefore experimental and requires great caution.
BPC-157 for Arthritis
Arthritis is a chronic inflammation of one or more joints. Causes for arthritis include tissue breakdown by “wear and tear”, injuries, or autoimmune reactions, in the case of rheumatoid arthritis.
In the animal model of arthritis, BPC-157 has proven effective in not only stopping the development of arthritis, but also in reversing arthritis that is already established.
Given the scarcity of available treatment options and the long-term burden of this chronic disease, BPC-157 would be a greatly welcomed therapeutic option for people affected by osteo- or rheumatoid arthritis.
BPC-157 & Wound Healing
Healing of wounds is a complex process following distinct steps.
The initial inflammatory phase should provide a barrier to the invasion of pathogens. This phase is followed by repair phase, in which cells divide quickly to produce new tissue or skin. The final remodelling phase aims to restore function of the to affected tissue as close to the original status as possible.
The rebuilding of blood vessels is a critical part of wound healing, as every part of the body has to be oxygenated and provided with nutrients.
BPC-157 has shown dramatic effects in healing of wounds to the skin as well as burns.
Evidence from animal studies revealed that treatment of the wound with a solution of BPC-157 leads to rapid vascularization (formation of new blood vessels) of the area of the wound, and to a swift healing process.
One of the ways in which BPC-157 promotes fast healing is by rapid activation of the VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) pathway. These growth factors play an essential part in tissue remodelling and regeneration.
BPC-157 is therefore a prime candidate to promote healing of wounds and burns, which is of particular importance in people with impaired wound healing, such as those with diabetes or infections.
How to Use BPC-157
BPC-157 is a water soluble compound, which makes it a very versatile agent, and dramatically reduces the risk of side effects, which are often associated with additional components of medication rather than the active ingredient.
Many of the animal studies using BPC-157 applied solutions of the compound in water to the site of injury or damage, eg by bathing the animals, covering the site of injury. Based on these experiences, BPC-157 can be used topically, as a solution directly applied to the skin.
Several studies have given BPC-157 orally by dissolving it in water.
The third administration route that has been used is injection of a solution of BPC-157 in water directly into the affected area.
Oral intake of BPC-157 may therefore be a convenient way for systemic (ie whole body) use of BPC-157, spreading it through the entire body. The disadvantage of this use the lack of control where the compound is finally deposited, or in what concentration it reaches its target location.
Injection of BPC-157 into the affected area delivers the compound specifically an highly concentrated to the target area, but involves potential stress associated with the injection procedure.
As there are no studies that have used BPC-157 in humans, dosage recommendations can only be based on experiments from animal models.
The highest used dosages here typically are 10µg per kilogram (kg) bodyweight. One study using BPC-157 in humans has been registered on the clinical trial database, but no results have been published, indicating that the study has not been started or completed yet.
The planned dosages of BPC-157 ranged from 0.25 µg/kg to 2 µg/kg bodyweight. That means that a person weighing 80kg would use between 20µg and 160µg per day. Whether these very small amounts would be effective in humans awaits confirmation.
However, unlike most other compounds, no lethal dose could be established for BPC-157, which is an unusual finding for a potentially medically active agent.
Therefore, higher doses may be possible, and optimal dosage would need to be determined empirically (by trial and error).
BPC-157 Side Effects
There have been no side effects or toxicities reported with the use of BPC-157 in animals.
BPC-157 is a naturally occurring peptide with great potential for use in healing and recovery, as it helps to speed up the process of healing, while making it more effective.
Scar formation represents a less effective way of healing, as the resulting tissue does not have the same functionality as the original tissue.
If BPC-157 lived up to its expectations based on results from animal experiments, scarring may be replaced by complete recovery of the tissue to its original state in less time than it does take at the moment.
These properties of BPC-157 therefore may change the current implications of healing, recovery and rehabilitation.
The current limitations from widespread use of BPC-157 are the lack of data on use in humans, which will hopefully be delivered in the near future.
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Nina Bausek, PhD, MSc, is a geneticist with a research background in reproductive biology, oncology and hematology, who is currently working as a medical adviser, writer, and entrepreneur. Her mission is to improve health and fitness by spreading knowledge and supporting evidence-based methods. She currently lives in Vienna, Austria.