The growth hormone (HGH, GH) is one of
The Effectiveness of Growth Hormone Treatments as an Anti-Aging AgentIn our modern age, immense strides in medical advancement have significantly reduced the high mortality rate previously associated with infectious disease, formerly one of the largest causes of death. The resulting increase in life expectancy unfortunately does not equate to humans living longer healthspans in correlation (Vaiserman, Lushchak, & Koliada, 2016). This resulted in a newly realized focus in most modern societies on staying healthy for longer and has caused people to pay more attention to aging and the onset of non-communicable age-related diseases, a major cause of death and disability among the older population. This has sparked interest for methods to slow or even stop aging altogether (Beard, & Bloom, 2015; Vaiserman et al., 2016). The human growth hormone (HGH, GH) is one of the more popular, but also extremely controversial, areas of focus in the anti-aging medicine industry (Dominguez, Barbagallo, & Morley, 2009). Despite the focus placed on GHs, no clear consensus has been reached among the numerous studies done. Even modern research has not been able to resolve the decade long debate regarding the long-term risks associated with GH treatment vs. the benefits to be gained (Samaras, Papadopoulou, Samaras, & Ongaro, 2014; Vance, 2003). Due to the sheer amount of controversy and the inconclusiveness of studies performed on humans, the future of GH treatment for anti-aging purposes is uncertain. There is no clear consensus among researchers and medical professionals whether GH treatment, due to the effects it poses, will slow the process of aging (Kann, 2003; Bartke, 2008). Growth Hormone in the BodyGH secretion causes insulin-like growth factor 1(IGF-1) synthesis, an essential protein for human development. GH deficiency, which results in a deficiency of IGF-1, could stunt growth significantly in a child and will result in decreased muscle and bone mass along with smaller organs, dwarfism and a series of other negative implications at an older age (Kann, 2003; Laron, 2001). The effects of GH deficiency causing a size reduction by adulthood is also mirrored in mice, rats, and other mammals causing stunted growth of up to 50%. This shows the importance of the IGF-1 protein and HGH especially in the earlier stages of life when rapid growth is experienced (Bartke, 2008). However, IGF-1 can also encourage certain negative implications such as the development of carcinoma and decreased IGF-1 levels will lower the chance for diabetes (Bartke, 2008; Vaiserman et al., 2016) Once a person reaches their full adult body size, the amount of GH in the body will steadily begin to decrease. This decrease will continue throughout one’s life leading to considerably lower GH levels in the elderly when compared to younger adults. The fact of GH decline with age is not under contention and is widely agreed upon. Many symptoms of aging such as the decrease of muscle mass and increased adiposity also closely resemble symptoms of GH deficiency in adults, leading to the reasonable conclusion that the natural decrease of GH contributes to many symptoms of old age (Bartke, 2008; Samaras et al., 2014). This is the major reason why many theorize that GH treatment may be the answer we need to stop aging.In some cases, however, higher GH and IGF-1 levels have also been negatively correlated with longevity. In mice, ones with GH deficiency or GH resistance have been found to live from 25% to 60% longer. In addition, these mice seem to maintain a longer healthspan along with retaining more youthful appearances at the tradeoff of being smaller than their genetically healthier counterparts as mentioned previously. This increased longevity in correlation to size has also been found in horses (Brosnahan and Paradis, 2003 as cited in Bartke, 2008) and even domestic dogs (Greer, Canterberry, & Murphy, 2007; Patronek, Waters, & Glickman, 1977 as cited in Bartke, 2008). The correlation when it comes to humans has been more mixed (Bartke, 2008), but due to the conclusiveness found in mice and other mammals, this could be an explanation for the negative implications in GH treatments in healthy individuals. Use and Effects of Growth Hormone Treatments In 1990, a landmark study performed by Rudman et al. (as cited in Vance, 2003) exploring the effects of recombinant human GH (rhGH) first sparked interest for the use of GH as an anti-aging agent. Today, a variety of GH treatments such as GH replacement therapy (GHRT) and the administering rhGH of are most commonly used for the treatment of individuals suffering from GH deficiency, but are also often marketed as anti-aging agents that can reverse the process of aging (Bartke, 2008; Samaras et al., 2014). In the United States, GH treatments can only prescribed to people suffering from a limited number of conditions such as growth failure due to a lack of GH secretion, short stature in children with GH deficiency, and short bowel syndrome (FDA, 2017). Effects on People with GH Deficiency The mandated and originally intended purpose of GH treatments is to prevent the negative effects associated with GH deficiency. Unlike the controversy regarding GH use for anti-aging purposes or on healthy individuals, most research has reached the consensus that there is little drastic side effects shown in GH deficient people. GHRT and rhGH cure most of the implications of GH deficiency along with the added benefit of a decrease in fat followed by an increase of muscle mass (Kann, 2003). This was also shown in studies performed by Rudman et al. (1990), Bengtsson et al. (1993), and many other researchers across the globe. Furthermore, there are greater positive effects such as patients receiving GHRT having lower mortality in comparison with their non GH replaced counterparts, shown in a 2015 study by Berglund, Gravholt, Olsen, Christiansen, and Stochholm which followed 494 patients along with 100 healthy individuals as a control. Effects on Healthy Individuals The greatest demand for GH among healthy individuals is for use as an anti-aging agent. Although it is illegal in the US to market and distribute GH for the purpose of anti-aging, the industry is as popular as ever (Liu et al., 2007; Voss, 2016). It should be noted that GH treatments also result in an increase of muscle mass along with a decrease of fat tissue similar to what is experienced in GH deficient people. However, great negative implications are experienced. Thomas Perls, an associate professor of medicine and geriatrics at Boston University School of Medicine said, for a CNN article, (2016) that “increasing HGH levels with drugs predisposes people to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.” This is backed up by research conducted by other professionals as well (Kann, 2003), such as when Liu et al. (2007) found in a study which evaluated and synthesised 31 different articles with 18 unique studies between 2005 and 2007 that GH treatments often increased the risk of a variety of adverse effects including soft tissue edema, swelling in the joints, and carpal tunnel syndrome. GH for anti-aging purposes has also been proven to connect to cancer, though the formation cancer and tumors as a direct risk of treatment is still under debate (Jenkins, Mukherjee & Shalet, 2005). On top of everything, there is no conclusive evidence that GH treatments can slow down aging.Conclusion GH treatments such as rhGH and GHRT are life saving for people with GH deficiencies. However, the usage of GH for the purpose of anti-aging poses too many negative risks in comparison to the few positive benefits produced. Although there is still much debate and controversy surrounding the subject, after nearly 30 years of history, it is unlikely that a breakthrough in research will arise to make GH a viable anti-aging treatment. Therefore, with an immense list of side effects and implications, no foreseeable future innovation, and finally no proven track record to slow the process of aging in the first place, GH is not an effective solution to extend one’s life and healthspan.