Human Growth Hormone (hGH), Chapter Four
MASTER HORMONE OF YOUTH
Most people think of HGH as the miraculous treatment for children doomed to dwarfism, which over the past thirty years has saved tens of thousands from this fate. The next great benefit of HGH therapy appears to be in the aging population. People with age-related deficiency of HGH become overweight, flabby, frail, and lethargic; lose interest in sex; have trouble sleeping, concentrating, and remembering things; tire easily; and in general, lose their zest for life. With HGH, all these so-called signs of aging can be reversed.
Indeed, nearly 20,000 clinical studies conducted around the world document the broad benefits of pharmacological HGH therapy. These studies suggest a wide range of effects when HGH is replaced:
- reduced body fat
- increased muscle mass
- higher energy levels
- enhanced sexual performance
- regrowth of vital organs
- restoration of youthful immune function
- stronger bones
- lower cholesterol and blood pressure
- faster wound healing
- smoother, firmer skin
- regrowth of hair
- sharper vision
- elevated mood
- improved cognition
Synthetic Production of HGH
HGH is a FDA-approved drug. In August 1996, the FDA approved HGH for use in adult patients. Before this, it was authorized only for use to promote growth in HGH-deficient children. The new indication is somatotropin (growth hormone) deficiency syndrome (SDS), resulting from pituitary disease, hypothalamic disease, surgery, radiation therapy, or injury.
In effect, the FDA approval covers the use of HGH for anti-aging purposes since low levels of HGH or IGF-1 indicate a failure of the pituitary to release adequate amounts of this vital substance. In addition, the signs of SDS, such as decreased physical mobility, lower energy, and higher risk of cardiovascular disease, are exactly the same as those seen in aging adults with low HGH levels. The FDA approval for HGH in adults means that any physician may now prescribe it to their HGH-deficient aging patients without fear of practicing outside of conventional orthodox mainstream medicine.
Today, HGH is made in the laboratory by genetic engineering methods, generating an identical protein to the one made naturally in the human body. For this reason, allergic reactions to the drug are rare, and it is extremely safe for human use. The injections are similar to that of insulin-very small needles deliver HGH subcutaneously (under the skin). Most people find it easy to do and even less painful than a pinprick. While different doctors use different dose regimens, the usual recommendation is between 2 and 8 IUs per week (1 milligram equals 3 IUs, or international units).
Many specialists in anti-aging endocrinology are now dividing daily doses into two per day, one in the morning and one at night, to more closely approximate the way HGH is released in the body. The idea is to raise the levels of IGF-1 (IGF-1, a byproduct of HGH, is the substance often analyzed to determine correct dosage of HGH supplementation) to about where it was at age thirty to forty, which for most people is in the high 200s to low 300s.
In June 2000, Genetech, Inc. and Alkermes, Inc. announced availability of the first long-acting dosage form of recombinant human growth hormone. It began shipment to the pediatric endocrine community in the United States after receiving FDA approval on December 23, 1999. The long-acting form of HGH is produced by embedding growth hormone in biocompatible, biodegradable microspheres of polyactive co-glycolide (PLG) microspheres, which allow the HGH to be manufactured in a biologically active form. Following subcutaneous injection, bioactive growth hormone is released from the microspheres into the subcutaneous environment initially by diffusion, followed by both polymer degradation and diffusion. This form of HGH increases patient convenience as well as compliance by decreasing the number of injections required for growth hormone therapy. Genetech, Inc. reports that it is pursuing FDA approval for use of this product in the treatment of growth hormone deficiency in adults.