The anterior lobe of the pituitary gland produces Human growth hormone (HGH). Many decades ago, the only way to obtain growth hormones for therapeutic use was by directly extracting them from the pituitary glands of cadavers. However, injecting these hormones had high cost and serious side effects. Directly injecting extracted growth hormone has been discontinued since 1985, after four patients who had been treated with human growth hormone died due to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Recombinant Human Growth Hormone (rhGH)
As of now, recombinant DNA technology has made reproducing rhGH possible. Since the development of rhGH, it has been used widely in children with growth hormone deficiencies. In addition to this, it is widely available in the commercial market. Due to the relatively affordable cost and easy availability, Growth hormone therapy has been abused worldwide. In many patients treated with rhGH, an immunological reaction has been recorded. Due to the growing rate of immune response in rhGH patients, a study was conducted to examine the serum of the patients who had been treated with rhGH.
In the study, 47 children who received rhGH therapy for a duration of 6 months were examined. Each child received 0.1 IU/kg of rhGH three days a week via the subcutaneous route. All the children gained positive changes in growth retardation. However, when the serum of these 47 patients was examined, four patients were found to have developed specific antibodies against growth hormone. The serum of the patients was examined via two methods. First, it was examined by the ELISA method and then it was reexamined by the Dot blotting method.
In a similar test, the serum of the treated children was pre-incubated with different concentration of rhGH. In these serums, specific antibodies against growth hormone were detected by a neutralizing assay. The main issue behind the development of these antibodies is the potential of these antibodies to neutralize the growth hormone circulating in the blood.
To search for the immunogenic effect of rhGH, to provide a measure for the evaluation of short-term treatment of patients and to evaluate the rate of antibody development in patients receiving rHGH therapy.
47 children with diagnosed growth hormone deficiency and 41 healthy individuals
Peripheral blood was acquired from 41 healthy individuals and 47 children with growth hormone deficiency. All the participants were pre-treated with recombinant human growth hormone, (Somatropin, Novo, Nordisk) for 6 months. All patients were treated with weekly rhGH doses of 0.1 IU/Kg, three times a week for a period longer than 6 months. The acquired blood was centrifuged at 2000 rpm and the serum was withdrawn from it. The extracted serum was tested by ELISA to detect any abnormal immunological reactions.
Among the 47 children, the serum of 4 children contained antibodies against growth hormones.
The rate of antibody development was greater than 8.5 %, which means each person receiving rhGH therapy carried a risk of 8.5% for developing antibodies against growth hormones.
So what are the better options for people seeking HGH therapy?
Direct injection cadaveric human growth hormone can have fatal consequences, which is why it has been banned and is no longer used. However, research has discovered that even injecting recombinant forms of Growth hormone can have dire consequences. Our body may not recognize the recombinant growth hormone, thus activating the defense mechanism i.e. our immune system. The immune system then produces antibodies against the foreign HGH.
When a person develops antibodies against growth hormone, it not only neutralizes the injected growth hormone, it also carries a risk of neutralizing the natural growth hormone produced by their own body. This leads to a higher deficit of growth hormone in comparison to the growth hormone deficit present prior to the rHGH therapy.
Therefore, injecting growth hormone in any form is not recommended unless the person has a serious growth hormone deficiency and the benefits outweigh the risks. In any other case, for example: for people desiring weight loss or anti-aging solutions with growth hormone, using supplements that stimulate the production of natural growth hormone is a much safer and yet equally beneficial option.