For starters, what are peptides? Peptides are similar to proteins; however, the main differentiator is their size. They are smaller and typically made up of less than 50 amino acids. They are a component of every single cell in the body. Generally, proteins are made up of two or more peptides that are bonded together. So, what do peptides do? Various peptides have different biological functions; some can impact characteristics of the skin and others the immune system. They can function as hormones or merely act as chemical messengers.
There are four different types of peptides, differentiated by the number of amino acids that are joined together by one or more peptide bonds. Dipeptides and Tripeptides are made up of 2 and 3 amino acids respectively. Oligopeptides and Polypeptides consist of between 4 and 50 amino acids, the former including 20 or less and the latter more than 20.
According to Ryan Smith, a self-proclaimed peptide enthusiast and Lexington KY native, peptides have a wide variety of application and there have been effective results in cases ranging from autoimmune diseases to cancer. Studies have shown they can diminish inflammation and eliminate harmful microbes. Additionally, peptides are commonly found in many skincare products to boost collagen production and reduce, or even reverse, the look of aging.
Since peptides already maintain a significant presence in the human body and are generally found in foods rich in protein, such as meat and milk, peptide supplements or other treatments may be viewed as a less risky alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals due to the reduced prospect of side effects. Research is still being conducted on the potential uses for peptides, and it’s likely these amino acid compounds will continue to become more and more relevant in the world of biology.