Dear Mark: Synthetic Peptides

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering one question from a reader. It’s all about synthetic peptides, small chains of amino acids with potentially huge effects on your health and physiological function. In most cases, these synthetic peptides are based on naturally-occurring compounds found in the human body. Scientists isolate the “active component” of the compound and whip it up in a lab by stringing together the right amino acids. Many of these peptides are available for purchase online, strictly “for research purposes.” But people are using them.

Are these safe for humans? Are they effective?

Mark, I would love if you did a write-up on BPC-157 and LL-37 with regards to gut health. I’m surprised with all your articles on collagen peptides you haven’t written once about “synthetic” peptides. Thanks!


Let Me Cover PBC-157 First….

BPC-157 is a partial reconstruction of a string of 15 amino acids that’s already found in Body Protection Compound, a naturally occurring healing compound the body produces. Its creators took the natural BPC and figured out the most “biologically active” section of its amino acid chain, then synthesized that section alone. You can find the real thing in human stomach juice (and presumably throughout the body doing its job). You can buy the synthetic version online.

What Does BPC-157 Allegedly Do?

It enhances healing and recovery from injury. In one study, BPC-157-treated Achilles’ tendon tissues were more resistant to injury, spread more quickly on a petri dish, and recovered faster than untreated tendon tissues.

In another rat study, their cecums—the beginning of the large intestine—were perforated. Applying BPC-157 enhanced healing, stopped bleeding, and sped up recovery.

It counteracts NSAID toxicity. BPC-157 blocks aspirin-induced bleeding and improves healing of NSAID-mediated lesions in the gut, brain, and liver.

Another rat study even used BPC-157 to improve healing from a spinal cord injury. BPC rats regained functional autonomy, had better control over their tails, and were less spastic.

It can treat periodontal disease, reversing inflammation and reducing bone loss.

It can treat colitis, reducing gut inflammation and restoring mucosal integrity.

Briefly looking through all the anecdotes online, most people are using this peptide to heal joint or tissue injuries, which seems to be the best use. Ben Greenfield swears it healed his tennis elbow and hamstring damage. I even saw one person who used it to improve brain health and function after years of stimulant abuse. Some research does show that BPC-157 can restore dopaminergic function in the brain. Some are even reporting restored sensitivity to stimulants (although using a healing peptide just to restore your ability to get high off Adderall again seems counterproductive).

What Are the Downsides?

It must be subcutaneously injected for maximal efficacy. This isn’t as hard as it looks (millions of diabetics do it every day) but some people are really nervous around needles. Orally-active BPC-157 is available, but I’m not sure how it compares.

There is the small problem of the total lack of published human studies. If there are any, I didn’t see them. The animal studies are impressive, though, and the fact that the peptide chain does naturally occur in our bodies suggests it’s relatively safe, but we don’t know for sure.

A big problem is that you can’t verify the purity of the products available online. You have to read reviews, know the right people, and do the research. These aren’t legally intended for human consumption, so there’s no testing authority regulating the safety and content of these products.

Now For LL-37….

LL-37 is an anti-microbial peptide found naturally in people. It’s heavily involved in the immune response, and its role in health isn’t very clear. It isn’t consistently “good” or “bad.” For instance, its presence can suppress tumor growth in colon and gastric cancer, but it’s been shown to promote tumor growth in ovarian, lung, and breast cancers. But it’s also able to bind to and negate the effects of lipopolysaccharide, the bacterial endotoxin secreted by many gut pathogens, and selectively target apoptotic white blood cells while leaving viable ones unaffected.

Why Are People Using It?

There are online forums populated by people who are using this peptide to heal gut issues, deal with inflammatory diseases, and treat autoimmunity—or, they’re at least buying the peptide, injecting it, and hoping that it works and not always following up with the results. I’m skeptical about using these as justification to experiment. As one recent paper put it, LL-37 is a tiny peptide with huge effects:

Some of the functions of LL-37 are anti-inflammatory, particularly those involved in blocking Gram-negative signaling pathways through TLR4. However, in the context of the inflammatory response, this peptide may also provide proinflammatory signals that can propagate inflammation, stimulate type I IFN production, and result in induction of autoimmune diseases. Further research is needed to fully understand the big effects of this little peptide on immune system function so that potential therapeutic uses can be explored.

Sticking Points With LL-37

Much of this could be a guilt by association situation: LL-37 is often found elevated at disease sites and in diseases states because it’s part of the inflammatory response. It isn’t necessarily causing the disease. But the immune response is a delicate one with huge ramifications. I’d be very careful with injecting a peptide that the body normally produces in times of acute inflammation. That sounds a lot like trying to attempt top-down regulation of innate immunity—a decidedly bottoms-up process.  Probably better to wait for human trials rather than rely on positive anecdotes from unsourced forum posts. I’m not saying these people aren’t helping themselves with this compound. I’m saying the risk of complications or unwanted effects would be too high for me.

That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading and be sure to comment down below. Do you have any experience using these synthetic peptides? How about any others?

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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10 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Synthetic Peptides”

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  1. Thanks for the info. It seems that Ben Greenfield likes them and I admit it’s easy to get caught up trying to find and implement the latest thing, but it’s more often than not a wiser course to proceed with caution with regard to things like this.

  2. Thanks, Mark!

    I’m hoping Dr. Seeds’ oral BPC-157 turns out to be as biologically available as the subq. Really don’t want to inject anything. Although it would probably work best for gut healing. The injectables would be for acute injuries. I’m thinking of trying it for a lingering hamstring issue I just can’t seem to resolve. I’ve tried darn near everything.

    Thanks for the info on LL-37. Didn’t realize it was so little tested as BPC-157. Let’s hope some human studies are underway now. The animal studies do indeed look promising!

  3. I wonder if there are any foods or exercise protocols that would increase endogenous production of BPC 157? Like many things, it seems that we make less of it as we get older.

  4. If you buy from Tailor Made pharmacy (ad there may be others by now) via prescription, I believe that is and FDA approved facility and theirs are legally intended for human consumption. I’m not holding my breath for valid human trials. I would use these long before I would take the IMO much-greater risk of things like surgery or cortisone shots. People who want to go the human- approved route can find a physician certified by the International Peptide Society to prescribe.

  5. I think that certain peptides like BPC157, TB500, Dihexa, Epitelon, DSIP are more safe than many of the other therapies & devices used by biohackers.

  6. That’s really informative, thanks, Mark.

    I look at this in the same way I look at any nootropic or supplement. There is a context of overall hijacking of science away from the common good and toward the putative good of profit. Many new substances have only ever been studied by those who sell them. This is assumed to be bad, but it’s probably just a matter of reputation risk. I mean, risk to the reputation of the researcher. If I”m a research biochemist and I simply decide to study this because I think it informs my PhD thesis, fine. But where will I get the funding? This is basic science which is very low-funding. But let’s assume I succeed. Then if the substance becomes a big fad, now I’m remembered as having studied it. Now who will hire me to study whether Ibuprofen causes (whatever), or doesn’t?

    We think science is just a simple (and free) pursuit of truth, but there is a lot of opinion that comes first. I doubt if we’ll have good answers to these questions and herbal ones until scientists can be scientists again and be funded just to think, without becoming billboards for the opinions of corporations or really, anyone.

    Until that happens my opinion is ambivalence. If it works do it. But for me I’ll make bone broth. I do anyway.

  7. I suffered a torn/ruptured plantar fascia almost 1 year ago and am trying BCP 157 from Taylor Made (prescribed from my naturopath dr) to heal it. Sadly, I didn’t see my naturopath dr until 9 months after the injury which was a huge mistake! I believe it is helping but this injury is taking forever to heal and I have only suffered from this once so I can’t compare it to nor argue that it is accelerating healing. If I do pull a ham or something else in the future I’d try it again immediately following the injury.

  8. Great article Mark! I follow Ben Greenfield avidly and I know you guys agree on a lot. It’s nice to see another established figure of the wellness community that’s not afraid to tackle emerging, potentially controversial subjects such as peptides.

    I have taken BPC-157, as well as a few other peptides not mentioned here, and I will say it has profound systemic effects. I was injecting subq near my bad hip for tendon repair and saw a great improvement. What I didn’t expect was experiencing a healing effect in my brain related to TBI I had 2 years ago!

    Sourcing is absolutely key though, which requires a good amount of further research. You are talking about injecting something you buy off the internet into your body. I would not trust anything that does not offer current COAs (Certificate of Analysis) from a 3rd party lab. Also Tailor Made, as mentioned earlier is a prescription grade source.

  9. I have seen hype from longevity MDs about GNRH peptides to increase GH & IGF. I wonder if it is safe. My limited research on one, “CJC 1295/IPAMORELIN”
    shows few short term human studies with small sample sizes. Thoughts?