What is Peptide Therapy?
Peptide Therapy is a hot new topic in men’s and women’s health clinics as well as at longevity clinics. I get a lot of questions about peptides. Let me start by saying that as someone who spent his career in corporate medicine/insurance-dictated care, I am somewhat new to the concept but learning like crazy. For that matter, so is almost every doctor, because peptide therapy itself is rather new. But because of the questions patients have as well as the potential utility of peptides, I am trying to digest all I can. I find it very intriguing and fun to learn new strategies to maximize quality of life.
I am going to start by explaining exactly what a peptide is and what peptide therapy can do. Then come the disclaimers.
WHAT IS A PEPTIDE?
Most people have heard of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins – put a large number of amino acids together and you make a protein. Peptide are just very small chains of amino acids (usually 2 to 50).
In the human body there are two types of hormones. The first type is steroid hormones. These include testosterone, estrogen, cortisol, and progesterone. The second type are peptide hormones such as HCG, Gonadatropin Releasing Hormone (GnRH) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH). Peptide hormones often act as releasing factors, which tell other glands to make and release other hormones. For instance, LH tells the testicles to make and release testosterone.
When a clinician describes use of peptides, he is generally talking about a man-made string of amino acids which acts as a releasing factor. For example, Ipamorelin is a 5 amino acid peptide originally developed by Novo Nordisk that specifically induces growth hormone synthesis and release.
EXAMPLES OF PEPTIDES
PT-141 (Bremenalotide) – PT-141 is used primarily to increase sex drive and sexual satisfaction, as well as to improve erections. PT-141 is FDA-approved for hypoactive sexual desire in women (referred to as The Female Viagra), and currently being studied in men. Speaking scientifically, PT-141 is a 7 amino acid peptide that acts as a melanocortin receptor agonist which leads to release of dopamine, increasing sexual desire. About 1/3 of men who do not respond to medications such as Viagra were able to obtain adequate erections following administration of PT-141 in one study. There is also some evidence that PT-141 can assist with weight loss.
Ipamorelin – Ipamorelin is very commonly used in regenerative and longevity medicine clinics. It is a 5 amino acid peptide that increases release of growth hormone via the hypothalamus and anterior pituitary gland. This is thought to increase muscle mass, decrease body fat, strengthen bones, improve skin, and increase energy.
CJC-1295 – CJC-1295 is a 30 amino acid peptide which also works through the growth hormone pathway. It also increases secretion of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). It is often used synergistically with Ipamorelin. It may have positive effects on bone health, lean body mass, insulin resistance, muscle development and sex drive.
These are the peptides that we are most interested in at The Men’s Center. However, there are a number of other peptides used for specific reasons.
Peptides are a relatively new medical approach. Most are not FDA approved. Several are currently going through clinical trials. Some are banned for professional athletes as they are considered to be performance enhancing. Most importantly, as with many new concepts, we do not really know what the long-term risks are. It is ALWAYS important to weigh the potential risks and benefits when choosing any therapeutic approach.