Spinal cord injury is a serious condition known to have temporary or permanent effects on the human body. It is known to affect more than 450,000 people in the United States. A specific type of injury, complete spinal cord injury (CSI) is a more permanent condition that is based on the loss of motor function and control. Research has attempted to investigate processes and treatment options to allow such individuals to partially regain control.
Previous studies in mice have shown that individuals with CSI are likely to be deficient in the human growth hormone (HGH). The mechanism for why this occurs is still not yet fully understood. Human growth hormone plays various roles in the body which range from stimulating growth to the regulation of bodily functions. Therefore, an investigation into the effects of administrating GH in patients with CSI is warranted, especially in humans.
Research on Effects of Growth Hormone
A study by Cuatrecasas et al. in Barcelona was conducted to examine the effects of growth hormone treatment on a group of patients with complete spinal injuries. A total of 18 patients who had low levels of growth hormone and complete spinal injury participated in the study over a six-month period. Participants were randomized to either a placebo or a GH group. Both groups were comparable in baseline characteristics. Primary outcomes such as American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) Impairment Scale, Spinal Cord Independence Measure scale (SCIM III), and pain scales were measured at two time points (3 and 6 months).
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The results of the study were promising. There was a statistically significant difference in SCIM-III score with the GH group having a lower score compared to the placebo group. At the end of treatment, the GH group showed greater motor function and control compared to the placebo group.
Cuatrecasas and colleagues have conducted the first human study which has proven to be a stepping stone for future studies albeit a small sample size. Therefore, studies in the future should work toward verifying the results in a larger sample size and direct their efforts to understand the outcome of GH treatment with differences in the severity of the spinal injury. More clinical trials should be underway to investigate how different doses of growth hormone can affect spinal injury recovery.
Dr. Guillem Cuatrecasas, who led the study, said, “It is possible that optimization of the therapy could improve recovery, at least for sensory perception, in the future. Sensory recovery is critical for quality of life in these patients, for example, to avoid pressure ulcers from wheelchair use, and funding will be critical to further this work.”