Peptide and protein growth promoters

The use of growth promoters in food producing animals has been banned in many countries since 1988 [31]. Thanks to harmonization efforts most of the EU member states are capable of detecting steroids and b-agonists at the required level, although large differences in specific analyte coverage still exist. Hormone criminality is believed to be linked with sports doping and to occur via international networks. As in sports doping it can be predicted that the abuse will shift from classical growth promoters such as steroids and b-agonists to peptides and proteins when the veterinary control of the former becomes more effective. Bovine and porcine somatotropin (bST and pST), the equivalents of human growth hormone, are 22 kDa proteins and commercially available as recombinant preparations. They are important endocrine factors influencing metabolic and somatogenic processes including growth, immune function, reproduction and lactation. Their species specificity implies low toxicity in humans, apart from potential rare allergic reactions. Major concerns are the observed increased levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) in milk [32], which are connected to the incidence of cancer [33]. Detection via instrumental LC/MS/MS approaches is feasible [34]. Recently a rapid SPR biosensor immunoassay has been proposed to detect somatotropins in illegal preparations [35]. However, routine sampling and analysis of somatotropins and associated proteins in blood, milk and other relevant matrices is still a major challenge due to the complexity of the endogenous regulation (Figure 3), protein binding and the pulsatile secretion by the pituitary gland. As a result the blood levels show a high intra- and interindividual variability.

In view of this it is rather unlikely that measurement of a single parameter can provide a validated tool for the enforcement of the ban on somatotropin and

Figure 3 Endogenous regulation along the somatotropin (growth hormone) axis.

related growth promoters. A huge challenge is envisaged that an assembly of parameters has to be measured followed by appropriate statistics in order to validate its diagnostic value versus untreated control populations.

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