Identification of fibroblast growth factor 1 (FGF-1) in a black market product

Katja Walpurgis, Andreas Thomas, Tim Laussmann, Luis Horta, Sabine Metzger, Wilhelm Schänzer, Mario Thevis

Publication: Contribution to journalJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


The use of growth factors for accelerated healing of sports injuries is restricted under the terms of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) anti-doping code. Cheating athletes have used the black market as a source of performance-enhancing substances. Drugs that currently undergo clinical trials are frequently offered--despite the unknown health risks associated with the administration of unapproved pharmaceuticals. Recently, a new growth factor (referred to as fibroblast growth factor 1/FGF-1) with known effects on the repair and regeneration of damaged tissue was detected in an unlabelled black market product confiscated by the German customs. The identification of the protein was achieved by one- and two-dimensional polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE and 2D-PAGE), different proteolytic digestions, immunological methods and nano-liquid chromatography high-resolution/high-accuracy Orbitrap mass spectrometry. The SDS-PAGE analysis revealed slight differences concerning the molecular weight of recombinant human and black market FGF-1. Using in-gel proteolysis, a truncation or modification located at the N-terminus of the protein was suggested. These findings demonstrate that drug candidates without clinical approval can be readily obtained from the black market, regardless of potential dangerous consequences for the consumer, which corroborates the necessity of proactive and preventive doping control approaches. In that regard, physiological concentrations of blood and urine specimens collected from healthy individuals were analyzed and were found to range below 28 pg/ml in urine, while there was no detectable FGF-1 in plasma.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDrug testing and analysis
Issue number11-12
Pages (from-to)791-797
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Research areas and keywords

  • Adult
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Doping in Sports
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 1
  • Humans
  • Injections
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances
  • Street Drugs
  • Substance Abuse Detection
  • Young Adult


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