What are peptides?
Peptides are made up of a cluster of up to 20 amino acids, amino acids are the building blocks of protein. A cluster of over 20 amino acids is typically known as a protein, and a cluster of less than 20 amino acids is known as a peptide.
Peptides work in the body by communicating with the cells to heal, increase the lifespan of a cell and can improve the function of a cell that enables healing to occur in the body. The use of peptides therapeutically, is to communicate with other cells, they basically replace or mimic the function of naturally occurring peptides and they have the ability to rewrite body chemistry. They can promote restoration, rebuild, and rebalance as well as have the ability to aid in healing when these peptides communicate from cell to cell.
Peptides may be easier for the body to absorb than proteins because they are smaller and more broken down than proteins making it easier for them to cross the gut lining and make their way into the bloodstream.
Peptides are currently being used in medicine to:
- Lower high blood pressure
- Reduce inflammation
- Prevent the formation of blood clots
- Improve immune function
- Reduce Pain
- Weight loss
- Improve Gut Health
- Bone and Joint Health
- Promote liver health
- Alleviation & prevention of stomach ulcers
- Assists in skin, muscle, tendon and bone repair
- Promotes accelerated wound healing
- Cognitive Function
- Promote Brain Health
- Reduce pain and inflammation in injured areas
- Decreased body fat
- Improved sleep
- Improved muscle mass
- Increased collagen production
- Immune enhancing peptide
- Helps prevent infections such as the common cold or the flu and diseases
- Suppresses tumour growth
- Has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.
- Supports the eradication of unhealthy cells (including cancer growth).
- Protects your cells against oxidative stress and damage.
- Inhibits viral replication
- Improve symptoms associated with chronic fatigue
- Reduce autoimmunity
- Reduce chronic infections such as Lyme disease, HIV, Influenza, SARS and other SARS-related infections
So much research is being poured into regenerative medicine at the moment that vaccines and new medications are coming out all the time derived from peptides.
Some of the more common naturally occurring peptides that you may have heard of include:
Vasopressin (antidiuretic hormone): This is a peptide hormone that is secreted in the hypothalamus, a small portion of the brain that’s located at the base of the brain. Vasopressin has a couple of functions.
It is responsible for regulating the amount of water present in the fluid space around cells (extracellular fluid) It does this by causing the kidneys to absorb water. In high quantities, vasopressin is also a vasoconstrictor, which means that it causes blood vessels to narrow, and as a consequence, blood pressure rises.
Oxytocin: This peptide hormone is produced by the pituitary gland (located in the brain) and is made up of nine amino acids. It causes the uterus to contract during childbirth. Oxytocin also plays a pivotal role in the milk ejection reflex (“let down”) during breastfeeding. Oxytocin is sometimes known as the “love hormone” because it is released when people snuggle up together or bond socially.
Defensins: These peptides are mostly active in the immune system and are thought to be antimicrobial, hence promoting the wound healing process.
Angiotensins: These peptide hormones are part of the renin-angiotensin system. They help to regulate blood pressure and also stimulate the release of aldosterone from the adrenal cortex to promote sodium retention by the kidneys.
Arent Peptides Just Hormones?
Hormones can be classed as either peptide hormones or steroid hormones. Peptide hormones consist of three or more amino acids and are soluble in blood. Steroid hormones are derived from cholesterol and are insoluble in blood.
So yes peptides can also be known as peptide hormones, such as the ones I mentioned earlier like vasopressin and angiotensin.
Peptides in Health Conditions
Pepdites make up a relatively new area of wellness medicine and are on the cutting edge of the latest regenerative medicines. So far most of the peptides available on the market have been used in the Anti-aging and bodybuilding industry to improve weight loss, the elasticity of the skin, reduce hair loss, improve muscle mass and aid in exercise recovery. However, some new and exciting research is coming out about the use of peptides in specific health conditions.
Let’s have a look at some of the latest research on the more well-known peptides.
Thymosin Beta 4
Thymosin is a hormone secreted from the thymus gland. Its primary role is to stimulate the production of T cells which play a pivotal role in the immune system. Thymosin also assists in the development of B cells to plasma cells to produce antibodies. Thymosin has also been shown to play a pivotal role in tissue repair, with the gene responsible for thymosin Beta 4 production being one of the first to be upregulated after an injury. The thymus gland shrinks as we get older and is often hardly detectable in adults over 70 years old. As such the production of the peptide Thymosin decreases as we age. Thymosin Beta 4 is also being currently trialled as a potential therapy for HIV, AIDS and Influenza.
I first came across this hormone after recently falling and breaking my greater trochanter – the pointy bit of the hip. Whilst researching all the things I could do to improve my recovery I came across two peptides one of them being Thymosin Beta 4 and its ability to aid in tissue repair. Thymosin Beta 4 can be used for super healing and regeneration, in cases such as mine needing support for a broken bone and ligament-to-bone attachment. I also found that Thymosin accelerates healing from inflammation such as dry eyes, really helps with muscle damage, especially from the heart and can be also used for brain trauma. It’s prescribed for acute injuries after surgical repair and for muscle recovery in terms of athletes. It also has the ability to support the healing of the heart muscles from cardiac injury, making it an amazing peptide to use in post-myocardial infarction otherwise known as a heart attack.
Thymosin Beta 4 will also cross the blood-brain barrier, and promote the generation of blood vessels to allow for stem cells and other blood products to reach the damaged areas in the brain for healing. It’s also used in anti-aging, and autoimmune processes.
It also has anti-inflammatory properties and might be useful for chronic infections such as Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and autoimmune diseases like lupus or MS.
BPC – 157
BPC – 157 is short for Body Protection Compound, and as the name suggests this peptide has been demonstrated to accelerate the healing process of many different wounds including tendon to bone and superior healing of damaged ligaments. In addition, BPC 157 seems to protect organs and prevent ulcers of the stomach. BPC was isolated from human gastric juices. This peptide has also been shown to decrease pain in damaged areas, and be of benefit to those who suffer from discomfort due to muscle sprains, tears and damage. It has also been shown to aid in skin burns to help them heal faster and increase the blood flow to damaged tissues.
Due to its high anti-inflammatory action, BPC may also be useful in helping people to health from things like inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, and even coeliac disease.
A study published earlier this year showed some exciting results using BPC to help heal conditions of the central nervous system, including post-stroke recovery, spinal cord injuries, and encephalopathies. Most excitingly it showed that BPC when given to rats after a stroke, subcutaneous injections of BPC lead to increased blood vessel repair in the brain which in turn reduced the long-term effects of stroke. This is indeed very exciting research that may lead to an effective post-stroke treatment to reduce the long-term complications of a stroke on the brain.
Peptides Specifically Used in Kidney Disease
Atrial natriuretic peptide belongs to the family of natriuretic peptides, a system with natriuretic, diuretic, and vasodilator effects that opposes the renin-angiotensin system. In addition to its classic actions, atrial natriuretic peptide exerts a nephroprotective effect given its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, turning it into a beneficial agent against acute and chronic kidney diseases.
In the kidney, ANP stimulates diuresis and natriuresis (the excretion of sodium) by different mechanisms at the glomerular level. ANP vasodilates the afferent arteriole and contracts the efferent arteriole which in turn increases glomerular capillary pressure and leads to an improvement in the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and fractional filtration. Obviously, improvements in GFR are directly related to an improvement in kidney function.
ANP has also been shown to exhibit an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action that justifies its nephroprotective effects. As we have often discussed here at the Kidney Coach oxidative stress and inflammation are major driving factors in the development of kidney damage and disease. It has been shown that ANP is capable of reducing the effects of reactive oxygen species in different models of kidney injury. The anti-inflammatory effects are caused by ANP’s ability to inhibit the activation of inflammatory cytokines such as NF-kB and TNF-𝛂.
Additionally, ANP exerts an indirect effect by facilitating the action of the renal dopaminergic system, which also exhibits an antioxidant effect on kidney tissues by supporting the production of important antioxidants such as Glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase and more.
TIP is short for Tuberoinfundibular Peptide, which is a synthetic peptide that appears to directly disrupt the destructive inflammation that occurs in nephritis, enabling the kidneys to better recover and maintain their important functions. Giving this peptide to those with confirmed kidney disease reduced the movement of immune cells into the kidneys, resolved inflammation and damage and improved kidney function, without increasing blood pressure. Serious infection or injury, and diseases like uncontrolled hypertension and diabetes can cause acute or chronic nephritis.
In animal studies when TIP was given in the late stages of nephritis, there was an 80% survival of the mice. At later stages of the disease, low doses of the peptide also reduced the level of T-cells, drivers of the immune response and inflammation, moving into the area. In fact, levels were essentially normal after treatment with the TIP peptide, with the peptide appearing to actually improve the general condition of the kidney over time. The peptide, which has already been tested in Europe in patients with acute lung injury, like pneumonia or trauma, and is being pursued in lung transplant patients as well, holds promise for targeted therapy for acute nephritis. Reversed inflammation in the kidney during the course of nephritis showed that it was effective and shows local effects within the kidney itself.
How are Peptides taken?
The most common way to take peptides is via a subcutaneous injection which bypasses the digestive tract and allows the peptides direct access into the body. Oral peptides need to go through the GI tract and may get broken down. Nasal peptides can get through the blood-brain barrier to get directly into the brain to enhance memory, stabilize mood, and sharpen mental focus.
Peptides require at least 2-3 months before seeing an effect. Even though the peptides will signal to change the body, the body needs to be prepared to institute the changes on a cellular level. Exercise, sleep, detoxification, repairing the digestive tract for adequate nutrition, optimizing the immune system, and balancing your hormones will improve the outcome of any peptide medications taken.
Are Peptides Safe?
Peptides are a relatively new form of anti-aging medicine, the more common peptides that have been around longer that are used in the bodybuilding, anti-aging and weight loss industry have been better studied and seem to be quite safe when taken at the correct dosages.
New peptides such as the ones I mentioned above for their use in Kidney Disease are still being researched and are not generally available to the general public.
To access peptides you will need to find a good doctor who is an expert in the area, they are prescription-only medications in both Australia and the USA. I have heard of a few Doctors working with people with kidney disease using peptides and getting amazing results, but the patient numbers are low and the peptides they are using are ones that I couldn’t find much research on.
I suspect this is an area of a new medicine that we should keep our eye on in the coming years as I suspect peptides could be the medicines of the future and medicine that holds some very promising results for many of us dealing with chronic health diseases. As I find out more information about this exciting new area of medicine I promise to share these findings with our Kidney Coach community.
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