GHK-Cu is a naturally-occurring complex molecule composed of a tripeptide called GHK (made up of glycine, histidine, and lysine amino acids) bound to a copper ion. The copper ion appears to stabilize and delivers GHK to cells. Research suggests that GHK-Cu may play a vital role in wound healing, tissue repair, and immune response. This is likely due to its potential to stimulate the production of collagen, elastin, and glycosaminoglycans, crucial intercellular matrix components.
In addition to its potential on the intercellular matrix, GHK-Cu may also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. However, levels of GHK-Cu in the body decline with age, which may contribute to the age-related decline in recovery and immunity.
Molecular formula: C14H22CuN6O4
Molecular weight: 401.91 g/mol
Other known titles:
- Copper tripeptide-1
Research and Clinical Studies
GHK-Cu and Collagen Synthesis
Studies suggest that GHK-Cu may stimulate collagen synthesis and induce in situ tissue recovery. The researchers suggest that these actions may be due to “the presence of a GHK triplet in the alpha 2(I) chain of type I collagen”.(1) One trial lasted for a month and reported that GHK-Cu might also stimulate type 1 collagen production in clinical settings.(2) The scientists compared the potential of GHK-Cu compared to other peptides and vitamin C and vitamin A derivatives on photodamaged skin in 20 test subjects. The research primarily investigated the action on dermal procollagen synthesis, keratinocyte proliferation, differentiation, and cutaneous inflammation. The peptide appeared to improve all indicators, and the researchers reported an apparent increase in skin thickness, elasticity, and hydration.
GHK-Cu and Wound Infection
Both animal and clinical studies have hypothesized that GHK-Cu may reduce inflammation and the risk of infection in wounds. One murine study investigated the potential of GHK-Cu on ischemic open wounds in rats.(3) The researchers reported, “On days 6, 10, and 13, tripeptide-copper complex-treated wounds contained significantly lower concentrations of TNF-alpha and MMP-2 and MMP-9 than control wounds.”
A clinical trial that involved GHK-Cu in addition to standard wound care also reported an apparently reduced risk of infection compared to standard wound care alone.(4) The study was conducted on test subjects with diabetic neuropathic ulcers, and the rate of infections was only 7% in the GHK-Cu group compared to 34% in the placebo group.
GHK-Cu and Wound Healing
Studies in rabbits report that GHK-Cu has been tested regarding its potential in wound healing and laser application at different intensities.(5) The results were also compared to control wounds that received no intervention. Wounds were observed daily, and biopsies were taken weekly for four weeks to evaluate the inflammation rate and neovascularization. The GHK-Cu and high-dose laser groups appeared to have a shorter average time for healing and greater neutrophil and vessel counts. There was an apparently shorter median time for the first observable granulation tissue and an apparently faster filling of an open wound with granulation tissue compared to the control group.
The previously mentioned study on rats with open ischemic wounds also reported an apparent decrease in wound area of the GHK-Cu group that was greater compared to the control group on days 3 to 5, 6 to 9, and 11 to 13.(3)
Similarly, the clinical study on test subjects with diabetic neuropathic ulcers reported that GHK-Cu, combined with standard wound care, appeared more impactful for wound closure than standard care alone.(4) The apparent closure rate was three times faster than standard care. The researchers also suggested that “The enhancement of wound closure was more pronounced (median of 89.2% compared with -10.3% for vehicle; p < 0.01) in larger (greater than 100 mm(2) initial area at study entry) plantar ulcers caused by the failure of this size of ulcer to respond adequately to standardized wound care.”
GHK-Cu and Active Radicals
Photodamage of tissues such as the skin involves the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), reactive nitrogen species (RNS), and reactive carbonyl species (RCS), which may cause damage to proteins, DNA, and lipids. Studies suggest that the amino acid sequence in GHK-Cu may have anti-RCS potential against radicals such as 4-hydroxynoneal, acrolein, malondialdehyde, and others.(6) Furthermore, it may potentially prevent protein glycation. Moreover, researchers have suggested that GHK-Cu may have potential action in reducing iron release from ferritin. Ferritin is a lipid peroxidation catalyst, and GHK-Cu may help to reduce the formation of iron complexes in damaged tissues and thus decrease inflammation. One study suggested an 87% decrease in iron release with the help of GHK-Cu to lower oxidation in damaged tissues.(7)
GHK-Cu may also reduce the production of reactive oxygen species and inflammatory cytokines while increasing the activity of antioxidant enzymes. This was proposed by an animal trial investigating the potential of GHK-Cu on lipopolysaccharide-induced lung inflammation in mice.(8) The peptide was suggested to suppress the activation of NF-κB and p38 MAPK signaling pathways associated with inflammation. This could potentially lead to reduced infiltration of inflammatory cells in the lungs of mice with lung damage and lower levels of TNF-1 and IL-6 production to minimize damage.
Furthermore, GHK-Cu has been posited to potentially reduce the oxidative stress caused by smoking.(9) Research has suggested that GHK may inhibit oxidative stress in alveolar epithelial cells by upregulating Nrf2 expression and reducing levels of reactive oxygen species in cell cultures.
Further studies also suggest that the amino-acid sequence of GHK-Cu may have an antioxidative potential on ROS, such as hydroxyl radicals, and it may be even stronger than generic antioxidative peptides.(10)
GHK-Cu peptide is available for research and laboratory purposes only. Please review and adhere to our Terms and Conditions before ordering.
- Maquart, F. X., Pickart, L., Laurent, M., Gillery, P., Monboisse, J. C., & Borel, J. P. (1988). Stimulation of collagen synthesis in fibroblast cultures by the tripeptide-copper complex glycyl-L-histidyl-L-lysine-Cu2+. FEBS letters, 238(2), 343–346. https://doi.org/10.1016/0014-5793(88)80509-x
- Abdulghani, A. A., Sherr, A., Shirin, S., Solodkina, G., Tapia, E. M., Wolf, B., & Gottlieb, A. B. (1998). Effects of topical creams containing vitamin C, a copper-binding peptide cream and melatonin compared with tretinoin on the ultrastructure of normal skin-A pilot clinical, histologic, and ultrastructural study. Disease Management and Clinical Outcomes, 4(1), 136-141.
- Canapp, S. O., Jr, Farese, J. P., Schultz, G. S., Gowda, S., Ishak, A. M., Swaim, S. F., Vangilder, J., Lee-Ambrose, L., & Martin, F. G. (2003). The effect of topical tripeptide-copper complex on healing of ischemic open wounds. Veterinary surgery : VS, 32(6), 515–523. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1532-950x.2003.00515.x
- Mulder, G. D., Patt, L. M., Sanders, L., Rosenstock, J., Altman, M. I., Hanley, M. E., & Duncan, G. W. (1994). Enhanced healing of ulcers in patients with diabetes by topical treatment with glycyl-l-histidyl-l-lysine copper. Wound repair and regeneration : official publication of the Wound Healing Society [and] the European Tissue Repair Society, 2(4), 259–269. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1524-475X.1994.20406.x
- Gul, N. Y., Topal, A., Cangul, I. T., & Yanik, K. (2008). The effects of topical tripeptide copper complex and helium-neon laser on wound healing in rabbits. Veterinary dermatology, 19(1), 7–14. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-3164.2007.00647.x
- Cebrián, J., Messeguer, A., Facino, R. M., & García Antón, J. M. (2005). New anti-RNS and -RCS products for cosmetic treatment. International journal of cosmetic science, 27(5), 271–278. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-2494.2005.00279.x
- Miller, D. M., DeSilva, D., Pickart, L., & Aust, S. D. (1990). Effects of glycyl-histidyl-lysyl chelated Cu(II) on ferritin dependent lipid peroxidation. Advances in experimental medicine and biology, 264, 79–84. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4684-5730-8_11
- Park, J. R., Lee, H., Kim, S. I., & Yang, S. R. (2016). The tri-peptide GHK-Cu complex ameliorates lipopolysaccharide-induced acute lung injury in mice. Oncotarget, 7(36), 58405–58417. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.11168
- Zhang, Q., Yan, L., Lu, J., & Zhou, X. (2022). Glycyl-L-histidyl-L-lysine-Cu2+ attenuates cigarette smoke-induced pulmonary emphysema and inflammation by reducing oxidative stress pathway. Frontiers in molecular biosciences, 9, 925700. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmolb.2022.925700
- Sakuma, S., Ishimura, M., Yuba, Y., Itoh, Y., & Fujimoto, Y. (2018). The peptide glycyl-ʟ-histidyl-ʟ-lysine is an endogenous antioxidant in living organisms, possibly by diminishing hydroxyl and peroxyl radicals. International journal of physiology, pathophysiology and pharmacology, 10(3), 132–138.
NOTE: These products are intended for laboratory research use only. GHK-Cu (topical) for sale (200mg) is not intended for personal use. Please review and adhere to our Terms and Conditions before ordering.
Dr. Marinov (MD, Ph.D.) is a researcher and chief assistant professor in Preventative Medicine & Public Health. Prior to his professorship, Dr. Marinov practiced preventative, evidence-based medicine with an emphasis on Nutrition and Dietetics. He is widely published in international peer-reviewed scientific journals and specializes in peptide therapy research.