Until a Sports Illustrated story broke on Tuesday, many in America had never heard of deer-antler spray, much less a substance in it called IGF-1.
But researchers at the University of Iowa have known about it for some time now.
While the current news cycle casts IGF-1 as a performance enhancing drug for cheaters in sports, the hormone could play a role in treating cystic fibrosis.
SI reports that several big name athletes, including Ray Lewis, a star linebacker for the Super Bowl-bound Baltimore Ravens, had sought out, purchased and/or used deer-antler spray even though IGF-1 is banned by most college and professional sports leagues. SI apparently only had evidence Lewis sought out the product, and Lewis denies using deer-antler spray.
IGF-1 (short for insulin-like growth factor) is thought to help muscle recovery, CBS News reports citing doctors.
Between now and the Super Bowl, and perhaps beyond, IGF-1 and deer-antler spray will be associated with cheating in sports.
But, it is important to remember IGF-1 has other functions.
At the University of Iowa, a 2010 study explored IGF-1's connection to cystic fibrosis. Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up most commonly in the lungs and digestive track and affects about 30,000 children and adults in the United States, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
The UI study suggested that low levels of IGF-1 may contribute to defects in babies born with cystic fibrosis, and the findings could help doctors predict the severity of the disease and lead to new therapies.
Here's from UI:
A new study using a pig model of cystic fibrosis (CF) suggests that low levels of a growth-promoting hormone at or before birth may contribute to growth defects in patients with CF.
The study, led by University of Iowa researchers and published online the week of Nov. 8, 2010, in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could help predict the severity of the disease in patients and may lead to new therapies for growth defects in people with CF.
Growth defects are common in people with CF and have been blamed, in part, on low levels of the growth-promoting hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1). Traditionally, the malnutrition and lung inflammation that accompany CF have been blamed for the decreased levels of IGF1. However, even patients who are relatively healthy often do not reach their full growth potential, and newborns with CF often are smaller at birth than healthy babies.
Read more about the UI study here.