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Treatment of Human Growth Hormone Deficiency

While some individuals suffer from the inability to produce enough human growth hormone, others are afflicted with the opposite problem. Individuals who are unable to produce sufficient amounts of this hormone may suffer with problems such as heart failure and disease as well as osteoporosis and other bone and joint diseases.

When it has been determined that a child does suffer from a human growth hormone deficiency, a treatment plan will need to be advised. This usually consists of receiving a human growth hormone injection. Depending on the child and the severity of their deficiency, they may receive up to four injections a week while other patients may require as many as an injection every day in order to achieve positive results from the treatment. Most patients and their families notice immediate results as soon as the human growth hormone injection treatment is administered. This gradually begins to decline after a few months as the child begins to ‘catch up.’ In most cases, a child may need to continue on the treatment plan for many years. 15

Studies were conducted as early as the first part of the 20 th century on growth hormones and provided results that were nothing short of amazing. According to The Hope, Hype and Reality of Genetic Engineering, “In the 1920s, growth hormones (GHs) were purified from mammals and were shown to be effective in increasing growth in rats and dogs. In the 1930s, first attempts to treat human dwarfism using GH from bovine pituitary glands failed. Not until the 1940s was it fully appreciated that primates, humans included, respond only to primate GHs. In 1958, the first clinical use of human GH to treat hypopituitary dwarfism took place. During a 10-month trial, a 17-year-old patient administered the drug grew much faster. A rush to administer hGH to undersized children followed during the 1960s and 1970s, and thousands were injected with the compound.

Although often effective in stimulating growth and allowing children with hypopituitarism to reach normal stature, this approach had serious problems. First was the matter of availability. At that time, pituitary glands from deceased donors were the only source of hGH, but human cadavers were in limited supply and individually yielded only tiny quantities of the drug. Thus, the expense of hGH treatment was astronomical. A second problem followed directly from the first. In the biochemical isolation of hGH, pituitary glands from thousands of cadavers first were pooled into large batches. But the brains of some dead donors later were discovered to have carried the infective agent for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), the human equivalent of mad-cow disease. Furthermore, that agent had not been fully removed during the HGH purification process. The hGH distributed in the United States by the National Hormone and Pituitary Program, for example, was derived from a total of 1.4 million pituitary glands, an estimated 140 of which might have been infected. One result was the death from CJD of several treated children and lifelong fear in thousands of families that their children might have contracted this slowly developing neurodegenerative illness.