What are Peptides?
The word peptide refers to collections of amino acids that are joined together by chemical bonds. In orthopedics, peptides have been increasing in mainstream popularity. Specifically, a peptide known as Body Protection Compound 157 or BPC 157 has been touted to accelerate tissue healing. It is being increasingly used as an intramuscular injection for tissue healing, and in his article An Update on the Magic Wolverine Peptide Called BPC 157, Dr. Centeno points out the peptide is:
[K]nown on social media as the “Wolverine” drug or peptide, referring to that Marvel character’s ability to heal quickly….The general idea is that this stuff is supposed to help healing (1).
So the real questions are: What does BPC 157 do? And Is BPC 157 legal?
In our practices at Regenexx at New Regeneration Orthopedics, we get a lot of questions about this peptide, so this article is intended to share information about BPC 157 so you can make informed decisions if considering using it.
What Does BPC 157 Do?
BPC 157 is derived from proteins in gastric juices and contains about 15 amino acids that make it a “peptide.”
The claim behind the peptide is that it accelerates healing in muscles, tendons and ligaments. Since we practice evidence-based medicine that follows the available current research, we have looked at what research is available for this compound that explains its mechanism of action and/or evaluates its efficacy in the treatment of soft tissue injuries.
One literature review paper describes the efficacy of peptides and states that of the available research on BPC 157:
[A]ll studies investigating BPC 157 have demonstrated consistently positive and prompt healing effects for various injury types, both traumatic and systemic and for a plethora of soft tissues. However, to date, the majority of studies have been performed on small rodent models and the efficacy of BPC 157 is yet to be confirmed in humans (2).
The companies selling BPC 157 and the media designed to boost its popularity focus on the part stating “have demonstrated consistently positive and prompt healing effects for various injury types,” but fail to mention the part stating, “the majority of studies have been performed on small rodent models and the efficacy of BPC 157 is yet to be confirmed in humans.” This means, simply, we have no evidence it works in human tissue.
The mechanism of action isn’t well understood, but it’s believed it doesn’t affect the tendon tissue cells directly, but rather that either works by activating other repair cells that can help tendons or ligaments or making the human growth factor receptor on the repair cells more sensitive (3). Another funny tidbit about the “fuzzy” research is the peptide is most often clinically administered intramuscularly with an injection even though the research suggests the positive effects were noticed when it was given orally (4).
Is BPC 157 Legal?
In terms of the legality of this peptide, the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned BPC 157 as of January 1, 2022 (5). The USADA states:
There appears to be no legal basis for selling BPC-157 as a drug, food, or a dietary supplement, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed there is also no legal basis for compounding pharmacies to use BPC-157 in compounded medications.
However, there is evidence that BPC-157 is being illegally included in some wellness and anti-aging treatments and products (5).
So even though any professional athlete with this substance in their system would be automatically disqualified from competition, and the FDA put out advisories about the issues with compounding pharmacies making these substances (6,7), people are still getting their hands on BPC 157. The reason this substance is still available to purchase in the US is the labs, pharmacies, and companies selling the products claim the substance is available for purchase for research only. However, there is absolutely no regulation on how these products are used after they’re purchased, and it’s likely very little “research” is being done.
The short answer to the question of legality is: NO. BPC 157 is not a substance that is legal or in compliance with the FDA for use in humans (1).
If you read something online about the optimistic promises the benefits of BPC 157, like the infographic below, your antennae should pop up that this is a marketing scheme.
The reason we say this is a marketing scheme rather than accurate promises is because:
- The research findings only apply to animal models and no studies demonstrating efficacy in human models.
- The WADA and USADA have banned this substance in sports, namely due to the risks it poses to humans considering there is insufficient research.
- The FDA has issued advisories to caution against the compounding of and use of this substance.
In our Regenexx at New Regeneration Orthopedics clinics in Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Orlando, we follow evidence-based medicine that is backed by the most current scientific evidence and research. For example, Dr. Chris Centeno summarized in this article a review of the total PRP studies for knee osteoarthritis, and quantified those with favorable results and unfavorable results. These are the types of studies that augment our approach to regenerative orthopedics.
If your orthopedic pain like knee pain, tendonitis, or muscle strains have led you to consider a peptide like BPC 157, try starting with speaking with one of our physicians about your condition to see how we can help.
- Chang CH, Tsai WC, Hsu YH, Pang JH. Pentadecapeptide BPC 157 enhances the growth hormone receptor expression in tendon fibroblasts. Molecules. 2014;19(11):19066-19077. Published 2014 Nov 19. doi:10.3390/molecules191119066
- Cerovecki T, Bojanic I, Brcic L, Radic B, Vukoja I, Seiwerth S, Sikiric P. Pentadecapeptide BPC 157 (PL 14736) improves ligament healing in the rat. J Orthop Res. 2010 Sep;28(9):1155-61. doi: 10.1002/jor.21107. PMID: 20225319.
- USADA. https://www.usada.org/spirit-of-sport/education/bpc-157-peptide-prohibited/