Growth hormone (GH) is a peptide hormone. It stimulates growth and cell reproduction in humans and other animals. It is a 191-amino acid, single-chain polypeptide hormone that is synthesized, stored, and secreted by the somatotroph cells within the lateral wings of the anterior pituitary gland.
Somatotrophin refers to the growth hormone produced natively in animals, whereas the term somatropin refers to growth hormone produced by recombinant DNA technology, and is abbreviated "rhGH" in humans.
Growth hormone is used clinically to treat children's growth disorders and adult growth hormone deficiency. In recent years, replacement therapies with human growth hormones (HGH) have become popular in the battle against aging. Reported effects include decreased body fat, increased muscle mass, increased bone density, increased energy levels, improved skin tone and texture, and improved immune system function. At this time HGH is still considered a very complex hormone and many of its functions are still unknown.
In its role as an anabolic agent, HGH has been used by competitors in sports since the 1970s, and it has been banned by the IOC and NCAA. Traditional urine analysis could not detect doping with HGH, so the ban was unenforceable until the early 2000s, when blood tests that could distinguish between natural and artificial HGH were developed. Blood tests conducted by WADA at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece primarily targeted HGH.
HGH is synthesized and secreted from the anterior pituitary gland in a pulsatile manner throughout the day; surges of secretion occur at 3- to 5-hour intervals. The plasma concentration of GH during these peaks may range from 5 to even 45 ng/mL. The largest and most predictable of these GH peaks occurs about an hour after onset of sleep. Otherwise there is wide variation between days and individuals. Nearly fifty percent of HGH secretion occurs during the third and fourth REM sleep stages. Between the peaks, basal GH levels are low, usually less than 5 ng/mL for most of the day and night. Additional analysis of the pulsatile profile of GH described in all cases less than 1 ng/ml for basal levels while maximum peaks were situated around 10-20 ng/mL.
A number of factors are known to affect HGH secretion, such as age, gender, diet, exercise, stress, and other hormones. Young adolescents secrete HGH at the rate of about 700 μg/day, while healthy adults secrete HGH at the rate of about 400 μg/day.
Functions of GH
Effects of growth hormone on the tissues of the body can generally be described as anabolic (building up). Like most other protein hormones, GH acts by interacting with a specific receptor on the surface of cells.
Increased height during childhood is the most widely known effect of GH. Height appears to be stimulated by at least two mechanisms:
In addition to increasing height in children and adolescents, growth hormone has many other effects on the body: