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Procollagen type III amino-terminal propeptide and insulin-like growth factor I as biomarkers of growth hormone administration

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
JournalDrug Testing And Analysis
Early online date6 Sep 2021
Accepted/In press2021
E-pub ahead of print6 Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: DM wishes to thank the Partnership for Clean Competition for a post‐doctoral research fellowship award. * Publisher Copyright: © 2021 The Authors. Drug Testing and Analysis published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors


The acceptance in 2012 by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) of the biomarker test for human growth hormone (hGH) based on procollagen type III amino-terminal propeptide (P-III-NP) and insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) was perhaps the first time that such a method has been used for forensic purposes. Developing a biomarker test to anti-doping standards, where the strict liability principle applies, is discussed. An alternative WADA-accepted approach is based on the measurement of different hGH isoforms, a method that suffers from the very short half-life of hGH limiting the detection period. Modification or withdrawal of the immunoassays, on which the biomarker measurements largely depend, has necessitated revalidation of the assays, remeasurement of samples and adjustment of the decision limits above which an athlete will be assumed to have administered hGH. When a liquid chromatography coupled mass spectrometry (LC–MS) method became a reality for the measurement of IGF-I, more consistency of results was assured. Measurement of P-III-NP is still dependent on immunoassays although work is underway to develop an LC–MS method. The promised long-term detection time for the biomarker assay does not appear to have been realised in practice, and this is perhaps partly the result of decision limits being set too high. Nevertheless, more robust assays are needed before a further adjustment of the decision limit is warranted. In the meantime, WADA is considering using P-III-NP and IGF-I as components of a biomarker passport system recording data from an individual athlete, rather than the population. Using this approach, smaller perturbations in the growth hormone (GH) score would mandate an investigation and possible action for hGH administration.

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