Glycyl-l-histidyl-l-lysine (GHK) is a tripeptide known for its high binding afnity to Cu2+ and its
complex role in wound healing. The GHK–Cu(II) complex was isolated from human plasma in
the 1970s and it was shown to be an activator for wound healing. GHK–Cu(II) has two main
functions: as an anti-inammatory agent to protect the tissue from oxidative damage after the
injury, and as an activator for wound healing itself as it activates the tissue remodelling.
The structure of GHK is very similar to that of common drugs used to treat ulcers.
After the initial stages of wound healing are activated, such as blood coagulation and
neutrophil invasion, a second stage of wound healing begins, which includes the population of
GHK at the wound, which has a high afnity to Cu2+. Mast cells, which are located in the
skin, secrete GHK, which accumulates Cu2+ and forms the copper complex GHK–Cu(II) and
therefore increases the metal–tripeptide concentration at the wound. First, GHK–Cu(II) has an
anti-inammatory effect by protecting the tissue from oxidative damage and by suppressing
local inammatory signals (i.e. cytokine interleukin-1 (IL-1)). Second, GHK–Cu(II) is released
into the blood stream and encourages the production of wound macrophages that support the
wound repair by removing the damaged tissue and secreting a family of several growth factor
proteins. GHK–Cu(II) also hinders broblast production of TGF-β-1 and therefore suppresses
the scar development. The GHK–Cu(II) complex also stimulates the growth of blood vessels,
neurons and elastin, and, in general, supports most processes of wound healing.
INCI: Tripeptide-1

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