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GHK-Cu

The human copper-binding peptide GHK-Cu (glycyl-l-histidyl-l-lysine) is a tripeptide found in human plasma, saliva, and urine. It was first discovered by Loren Pickart in 1973 by isolating the tripeptide from the human plasma. GHK-Cu is proposed to speed up the process of wound healing, regulate immune system cell activity, stimulate collagen and glycosaminoglycan synthesis in the skin, promote growth of blood vessels, and exert anti-aging effects via antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Today, GHK-Cu is used as a protective and regenerative ingredient in various skin and hair products.

Overall Health Benefits of GHK-Cu

  • Accelerates wound healing [1-27]
  • Reduces signs of skin aging [28-35]
  • Improves lung health [36-40]
  • Fights different cancer types [41-44]
  • Fights hair loss [45-49]
  • Accelerates nerve regeneration [50-54]
  • Fights anxiety [55-57]
  • Combats cognitive dysfunction [58-67]

Proven Health Benefits of GHK-Cu

Accelerates Wound Healing

GHK-Cu plays an integral role in tissue remodeling and other phases of the wound healing process. An overwhelming body of scientific evidence supports the regenerative properties of this tripeptide:

  • A 2008 study published in the Journal of Biomaterials Science found that GHK-Cu attracts repair cells such as macrophages, mast cells, capillary cells at the site of injury. [1]
  • In mice, GHK-Cu improved wound healing by promoting cell proliferation and angiogenesis. [2]
  • A 2015 study published in the Biomed Research International found that GHK-Cu tripeptide acts as a natural modulator of multiple cellular pathways in skin regeneration. [3]
  • A study found that GHK-Cu improves wound healing by increasing extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, collagen, glycosaminoglycans, and DNA synthesis. [4]
  • Studies found that GHK-Cu modulates various aspects of the wound healing process, including attraction of the cells of the immune system, formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis), and collagen synthesis. [5-8]
  • In patients with wounds induced by CO2 laser skin resurfacing, GHK-Cu treatment is associated with higher patient satisfaction. [9]
  • A study also found that GHK-Cu stimulates the breakdown of existing collagens in wounds. [10]
  • In rats, GHK-Cu improved skin remodeling process by modulating activity of different metalloproteinases, which are enzymes that remodel wounds. [11-12]
  • A study reported that GHK-Cu improves wound healing by increasing the levels of decorin, a substance that influences tissue tensile strength and prevents scarring. [13-15]
  • A cell study found that GHK-Cu increases fibroblasts, which are the key cells in skin reparative and renewal processes. [16]
  • In rabbits, GHK-Cu treatment resulted in better wound contraction, faster development of granular tissue, and improved blood vessel growth. [17]
  • When given in combination with laser treatment, GHK-Cu increased the formation of new blood vessels and increased the levels of antioxidant enzymes in the dermal wounds. [18-19]
  • In rats with difficult to heal wounds, such as diabetic wounds, GHK-Cu treatment resulted in faster wound contraction and closure. [20-21]
  • In pigs with mild thermal burns, GHK-Cu triggered an accelerated healing of the injury. [22]
  • In animal models, GHK-Cu treatment accelerated closure in both wound chambers and full thickness wounds. [23]
  • In patients with diabetic ulcers, application of GHK-Cu gel is associated with faster wound closure and lower rate of infection. [24]
  • In normal human dermal fibroblasts (skin cells), treatment with GHK-Cu accelerated skin cell renewal by decreasing the secretion of transforming growth factor β (TGF-β), a cytokine involved in programmed cell death. [25-26]
  • A 2015 study published in Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters found that GHK-Cu can help accelerate the wound healing process through its antimicrobial properties. [27]

The regenerative properties of GHK-Cu do not only improve the wound healing process but also reduce the signs of skin aging such as wrinkles, fine lines, and other skin imperfections, according to high quality human studies:

  • In women with mild to advanced signs of photoaging, application of a facial cream containing GHK-Cu for 12 weeks increased skin density and thickness, improved clarity, and reduced laxity, fine lines, and depth of wrinkles. [28]
  • In women with mild to advanced photodamage, application of GHK-Cu eye cream for 12 weeks reduced lines and wrinkles, increased skin density and thickness, and improved overall skin appearance compared to vitamin K. [29]
  • In healthy subjects, application of GHK-Cu cream to thigh skin for 12 weeks improved skin laxity, clarity, firmness, density, thickness and appearance, and reduced fine lines, coarse wrinkles and mottled pigmentation compared to vitamin C cream and retinoic acid. [30]
  • When applied to the skin twice daily for 12 weeks, GHK-Cu cream strongly stimulated the production of keratinocytes (maintain skin tightness). [31]
  • When applied to aged skin, GHK-Cu improved skin hydration, thickness, elasticity, and contrast by increasing the production of collagen I. [32-33]
  • In female volunteers, GHK-Cu treatment resulted in a 55.8% reduction in wrinkle volume and a 32.8% reduction in wrinkle depth. [34]
  • A cell study found that GHK-Cu may help improve skin health by increasing the levels of p63, a putative stem cell marker of the skin. [35]
  • A 2012 study published in Genome Medicine found that GHK-Cu improves lung tissue regeneration by restoring the activity of genes involved in the TGF-beta pathway (involved in cell growth and other cellular functions). [36]
  • In patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), GHK-Cu administration accelerated lung tissue repair by restoring the contraction and remodeling of collagen. [37-38]
  • GHK-Cu administration in mice protected their lung tissue from lipopolysaccharide-induced acute lung injury by suppressing the infiltration of inflammatory cells. [39]
  • In mice, GHK-Cu administration reversed bleomycin-induced inflammation and scarring of the lungs. [40]

Fights Different Cancer Types

Evidence suggests that GHK-Cu also has potent anti-cancer properties that can help suppress the growth and reproduction of aggressive cancer cells:

  • A cell study found that GHK-Cu suppressed 70% of genes involved in the development of aggressive colon cancer. [41]
  • Another cell study found that treatment of three lines of human cancer cells with GHK-Cu resulted in activation of programmed cell death (apoptosis). [42]
  • In a mouse model of bone cancer, GHK-Cu strongly inhibited the growth of cancer cells. [43]
  • A gene study reported that GHK-Cu has the ability to suppress DNA repair of cancer cells. [44]

Fights Hair Loss

There’s also strong scientific evidence that supports the effects of GHK-Cu in stimulating hair growth and preventing age-related hair loss:

  • Injection of GHK-Cu in shaved mice for 12 days resulted in strong hair growth stimulation at the injection site. [45]
  • GHK-Cu administration in rats for 3-4 months doubled follicle size and caused 80% increase in the number of hair follicles that are in the anagen or growth phase. [46]
  • A cell study found that GHK-Cu accelerates hair growth by stimulating dermal papilla cells, which play an integral role in the growth and development of hair follicles. [47]
  • A cell study assessing the effect of GHK-Cu on human hair growth reported that the treatment stimulated the proliferation of dermal papilla cells. [48]
  • A study also found that GHK-Cu exhibits more superior hair growth promoting effects than other peptides. [49]

Accelerates Nerve Regeneration

  • Studies show that GHK-Cu has the capacity to heal the most debilitating nerve injuries:
    A study found that GHK-Cu stimulates new blood vessel growth at the site of nerve injury. [50]
  • Cell studies found that GHK-Cu stimulates nerve outgrowth and restores skin’s innervation by increasing the production of neurotrophic factors. [51-52]
  • A cell study also found that GHK-Cu sped up the regeneration of nerve fibers by increasing the production of nerve growth factor and the neurotrophins NT-3 and NT-4. [53]
  • In rats, GHK-Cu injection alleviated programmed cell death of nerve cells in the brain. [54]

Fights Anxiety

A number of studies also found that GHK-Cu exerts anti-anxiety effect that can help improve overall mood:

  • In rats, injection with GHK-Cu at 0.5 micrograms per kilogram resulted in a significant reduction of fear and anxiety as evidenced by increased amount of time spent exploring in more open and lighted areas of the maze. [55]
  • In another rat study, GHK-Cu injection produced anti-anxiety effect as evidenced by less time hiding and more time exploring the area in the open field test. [56]
  • When injected to aggressive rats, GHK-Cu significantly reduced anxiety-like behaviors. [57]

Combats Cognitive Dysfunction

    Studies show that GHK-Cu can potentially combat cognitive dysfunction related to aging and brain disorders through various important mechanisms:

  • GHK-Cu can prevent cognitive dysfunction induced by Alzheimer’s disease by reducing the brain levels of abnormal sticky compound known as amyloid beta. [58]
  • GHK-Cu can potentially prevent Alzheimer’s disease by increasing the levels of antioxidant enzymes. [59-60]
  • GHK-Cu can improve cognitive health by effectively neutralizing damaging oxygen-derived free radicals. [61-62]
  • By decreasing the pro-inflammatory cytokine TGF-beta, GHK-Cu can prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease. [63-66]
  • GHK-Cu can prevent age-related cognitive decline by improving nervous system function. [67]

References:

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  2. Wang X, Liu B, Xu Q, et al. GHK-Cu-liposomes accelerate scald wound healing in mice by promoting cell proliferation and angiogenesis. Wound Repair Regen. 2017;25(2):270-278.
  3. Pickart L, Vasquez-Soltero JM, Margolina A. GHK Peptide as a Natural Modulator of Multiple Cellular Pathways in Skin Regeneration. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:648108. doi:10.1155/2015/648108.
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