Posted 1 month ago

Healing peptides

In recent years, it has become fairly common for athletes involved in bodybuilding to use the healing peptides BPC-157 and TB-500 to improve their recovery from injuries such as tendonitis and/or muscle tears. These peptides can have significant positive effects on tissue repair, and although many people may use these, most don’t actually know or understand the mechanisms behind how they work.

Before we get into this article, it’s important to note that these peptides are currently used for research purposes only, mostly in rodent models, and as such, should not be prescribed for human use. Therefore, the contents of this article should not be taken as advice, as the VW Physique coaches are not medical professionals and don’t claim to be. Like many things in the bodybuilding world, people will take compounds and supplements at their own risk. As such, the aim of this article is to discuss the mechanisms of how these peptides work, explain some of the literature/research, and reflect on my own use/experience with them.

Why are they used?
Bodybuilding involves pushing the body’s boundaries whilst lifting heavy weights, so athletes are continually breaking down muscle. As with any other sport, when you constantly place the body under strain, it is somewhat inevitable to pick up injuries. But of course, being injured is a roadblock to one’s ability to train heavy, add muscle mass, and continue to progress.

This is where healing peptides come in – they are a method that has been found to help recover from specific injuries faster, meaning that one can resume heavy training in a shorter timeframe. Given the fact that it can almost halve recovery time, taking healing peptides is often a no-brainer for athletes.

What are they?!
At this point you’re probably wondering what actually are these “healing peptides”? A peptide is a short chain of amino acids which are joined by a peptide bond [1]. Although BPC-157 and TB-500 are commonly used together, I think it’s best to break down the information about each individual peptide before discussing the effects of combining both.

BPC is an acronym for “Body Protection Compounds” and refers to peptides consisting of 8-15 amino acids. BPC can be derived from a protein from the stomach, and out with healing, it can also be used to treat stomach and intestinal conditions. However, BPC-157 does not share the same sequence, function or structure with other known gastric peptides therefore it is not known to occur naturally in nature [2].

BPC-157 promotes a process called angiogenesis, which is the formation of new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels; this is a vital process for tissue repair. In a study on chick embryos, BPC-157 appeared to increase the process of angiogenesis by 152% [3]. Furthermore, in the same study, they restricted blood flow to rats’ hind limbs to mimic damage, and after a week of BPC-157 treatment, there appeared to be more blood vessels in the damaged limb.

Overall, it appears that BPC-157 increases vascular endothelial growth factor receptors (VEGFR), your vascular system is your body’s network of blood vessels. Endothelial cells form a single cell layer that lines all blood vessels and regulate exchanges between the bloodstream and the surrounding tissues. Signals from endothelial cells organise the growth and development of connective tissue cells that form the surrounding layers of the blood-vessel wall. In the study mentioned on rats, it was the increase in VEGFR2 that was thought to underlie the increase in blood vessel production [3]. Ultimately accelerating blood flow and recovery.

BPC-157 has also been shown to stimulate the mRNA of the growth factor of Early growth response protein 1 (EGFR 1) [2]. This is a transcription factor involved in the process of copying a segment of DNA into RNA. An increase in EGFR 1 has also been shown in intestinal cells through use of BPC-157 which shows the link between this peptide and improving IBS symptoms or leaky gut syndrome [4]. In addition, BPC-157 has been shown to allow tendon fibroblasts to grow and spread faster. These types of cells synthesis cell’s structure and collagen formation, which play a crucial role in wound healing. Thus, BPC-157 supports tendon formation, homeostasis and repair [5].

Thymosin beta-4 (TB-500) is a peptide that consists of 43 amino acids, and it has the ability to control the upregulation of cell-building proteins. TB-500 is encoded by the TMSB4X gene, which plays a vital role in the organisation of cells cytoskeleton [6]. The cytoskeleton of a cell is made up of microtubules, actin filaments, and intermediate filaments. These structures give the cell its shape and help organize the cell’s parts. In addition, they provide a basis for movement and cell division. An example of TB-500 at work would be its upregulation of actin, a protein that forms together with myosin as the contractile filaments in muscle cells, as well as the metabolism and motion of other similar type cells. Due to actin’s upregulation, TB-500 is able to promote cell growth, cell migration, healing, and the proliferation of cells. Moreover, besides the added benefit of creating new blood vessel pathways, TB-500 enables a decrease in inflammation for greater wound healing [7].

In a recent study done on rats, TB-500 was shown to increase angiogenesis, which we already know is the formation of new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels. After topical or intraperitoneally  application wound healing speed increased by 42% compared to controls group which received no TB-500 and increased levels of collagen (structural protein) were found in those healed wounds [8].

In addition, TB-500 has been shown to reduce cell apoptosis i.e., programmed cell death. This is can be a major factor in degenerative tissue such as human intervertebral discs [9]. The human intervertebral disc contains a small cell population that becomes even further reduced with the processes of aging and degeneration. This puts the remaining cell population at high risk for further decrease in cell function or cell numbers. TB-500 has been shown to reduce apoptosis in these tissues.

It has also been shown to reduce neuro-inflammation [10] as well as anti-inflammatory effects exhibited on the skin. As we know, inflammation is a defensive mechanism of the immune system which occurs when it detects a problem such as damaged cells, pathogens or irritants. It often marks the start of the healing process and is often required by the body to deal with various problems. However, prolonged inflammation can damage the body, and as such, finding something to help reduce it can be of benefit [11].

Finally, TB-500 has been shown to promote the migration of stem cells and their immediate outcome on the extracellular matrix of cells, which we know provide structural and biochemical support to surrounding cells [12]. Stem cells are a major part of wound healing and tissue regeneration.

What does this research mean?

As you can see, I have summarised and contextualised the research into the information that is of practical use or knowledge for someone who is injured and is curious about how these peptides have been shown to support different aspects of wound healing.

All this research has been done in animal models, and if/when applied to human subjects, it’s important to note that dosages, protocols and injection sites will differ to what is described in the research. However, the purpose of this article is to share information about the peptides themselves, and not discuss its human use further.

Personal experience
Over the last few years, there have been a few instances in which I’ve used both peptides simultaneously, and it has always helped eradicate any niggles or tendonitis I had picked up from continuous exertion. Of course, this was taken in conjunction with adequate rest, recovery, adapting training, and ongoing sports therapy.

When clients I have worked with have chosen to try these healing peptides on themselves, they have all reported similar positive responses to having used the same protocol as I had. The most notable on to anecdotally comment on came from a client who had groin tears, and who’s recovery time was cut in half as a result of trying healing peptides. The physiotherapist that the client worked with couldn’t quite believe how quickly the injury was healing. This was, of course, resulting from the vast mechanisms of growth and repair that each peptide described can generate.

In conclusion, although BPC-157 and TB-500 are not meant for human use, they are often taken by athletes in the bodybuilding world. All evidence has been done on short term animal models but has shown a vast array of mechanisms by which these peptides promote the healing and regeneration of tissue. More long-term studies are warranted to deem what the side effects of taking these compounds could be, both on animals and human participants. Personally, I have found success using both at the same time and have seen an acceleration of recovery from injuries and niggles.

Vaughan Wilson Bsc Hons