Human Growth Hormone
What we commonly refer to as human growth hormone or HGH is a form of peptide hormone that is naturally produced by the pituitary gland. Also known as somatropin or somatotropin, this hormone comprises of a 191-amino acid structure, which is formed and secreted by the somatotropic cells of the pituitary gland. As its name suggests, this hormone is responsible for promoting growth and cell regeneration in humans. Apart from this, it has several other important functions within the human body especially in regulating the normal body functions. However, this hormone is still very complex, making it difficult for experts to determine its full function .
The human growth hormone regulates body composition and also controls the growth of bones and muscles in the body. This means it plays an important role in the healing and repair of connective tissues like joints, tendons, and ligaments. It also regulates the level of certain body fluids, preventing serious health disorders. This hormone is also known to help in regulating the metabolism of fat and sugar in the body. Experts believe that the human growth hormone is also responsible for the normal functioning of the heart .
In terms of the synthetic version, human growth hormone is commonly used as an ingredient in prescription drugs that are used to treat growth disorders in children and growth hormone deficiency in adults. The use of human growth hormone has been restricted in the US, where you need a doctor's prescription to get it. Lately, it has been used to increase vitality in older adults with growth hormone deficiency.
Usage and abuse of HGH
In 1985, the synthetic version of the human growth hormone was developed and was later approved by the FDA to be used for specific purposes . As mentioned earlier, this hormone can be legally used for the treatment of poor growth in children, which can be caused by a number of reasons such as:
For adults, the use of human growth hormone is approved in case of the following problems:
There are several studies investigating the effects of growth hormone on livestock for the promotion of industrial agriculture. In the United States, FDA-approved bovine growth hormone can be given to dairy cows for the purpose of increased milk production. It is, however, illegal to give growth hormone to cows raised for beef. It is illegal to use growth hormone in poultry farming.
It was from the late 1980s that the human growth hormone was considered as an ergogenic (performance-enhancing) drug . Due to its known anabolic property, human growth hormone has been abused by athletes competing in sporting events. As a result, the International Olympic Committee and the National Collegiate Athletic Association has put a ban on this hormone . Despite this, there is still a heated debate regarding the effectiveness of the human growth hormone in enhancing the physique and performance of its users. In fact, few studies have revealed that the use of this hormone has resulted in subjects gaining lean mass and some healthy weight.
History of HGH development
Choh Hao Li, a Chinese-born biochemist was responsible for the identification and purification of the growth hormone . He is also associated with the synthesis of the hormone. It was in 1981 that recombinant HGH was used for the first time in human therapy. Before recombinant DNA technology was used to produce human growth hormone, the hormone from the pituitary glands in cadavers was extracted for the purpose of deficiency treatments. There were several failed attempts at creating an entirely synthetic HGH.
In the late 1950s, John C. Beck and his colleagues conducted a study on the effects of the growth hormone from the Rhesus macaque, an old world monkey . The subject was a 13 year old male with hypopituitarism, a condition in which there is decreased hormone secretion by the pituitary gland. It was found that both the human and monkey growth hormone had a significant impact on the enhancement of nitrogen storage. The subject was able to retain calcium, sodium, potassium, and phosphorus. It was also found that there was a significant amount of weight gain in the subject.
A problem arose in 1985, when individuals who received HGH derived from cadavers 10-15 years earlier started to develop unusual cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease . It was believed that infectious agents causing the disease were passed on along with the HGH derived from cadaver. As a result of this incident, the market for cadaver-derived HGH was immediately stopped. The same year, biosynthetic human growth hormone was finally developed and took over the role of pituitary-derived HGH. By 2005, you could find recombinant growth hormones such as Nutropin, Genotropin, Saizen, Norditropin, and Humatrope.
How HGH functions
It can be said that human growth hormone has a built-up effect on the tissues of the body. This means it can be described as having an anabolic effect. For the hormone to have an effect on the tissues it needs to interact with a receptor, which is found on the surface of the cells.
Human growth hormone is mostly known for its effect on an individual's height during childhood. Since this hormone is insoluble in fat, it cannot penetrate the cell membranes. Instead, it binds on to receptors on the target cells and then activates the MAPK/ERK pathway. This mechanism results in a stimulation of the chondrocytes in cartilage to divide and multiply .
HGH also uses the JAK-STAT signaling pathway to stimulate the production of an insulin-like growth factor known as IGF-1, which was formerly called somatomedin C. For this process, the hormone mainly targets the liver, which also plays host to the production of IGF-1. This growth factor affects several tissues and is also generated within target tissues. As a result, it can be considered as a combination of an autocrine/paracrine and an endocrine hormone. IGF-1 also stimulates osteoblast and chondrocyte activity, promoting bone growth.
HGH and its effects on different tissues
Human growth hormone has the ability to promote hyperplasia, which is an increase in the number of muscle cells. It is also known to promote hypertrophy, which is an increase in the size of muscles. Although it has both these effects, it is far more effective in promoting hyperplasia, making it ideal for bodybuilders and athletes. This is because if new muscle cells are created, the effects are more likely to last for a longer period of time.
As mentioned in brief earlier, human growth hormone also promotes the regeneration, growth, and healing of almost every type of cell in the body. This effect is ideal for treating individuals suffering from diseases that may cause organ failure without any possibility of organ transplants. For instance, an individual with kidney or liver failure can use the human growth hormone to heal or regain a normal organ function because it is capable of regenerating cells. Since human growth hormone results in cell growth and regeneration, it may even result in significantly larger organs.
Human growth hormone has several effects on the body's metabolism. It has the ability to change the body's choice of energy source from carbohydrates to lipids. This is why it is important for users to administer the correct dosage, as excessive doses can result in rise of blood sugar levels. This effect is known as a diabetogenic effect and may even increase the risk of type-2 diabetes with prolonged use of human growth hormone.
On the other hand, this effect on the body's metabolism can also have positive results. By manipulating the energy source and changing it to body fat, there may be dramatic weight loss effects. This may even help in decreasing the level of cholesterol in the body. It is important for a user to remember that the sodium, potassium, and phosphorus levels in the body may get depleted. It is especially necessary for individuals taking higher doses of this hormone to include mineral supplements in their daily diet.
Other than its function as a hormone that promotes growth in children and teens, the human growth hormone has several other functions:
Side effects of HGH
The FDA has approved the use of growth hormone for several purposes. This means it is reasonably safe to use in approved doses when its multitude of benefits is taken into consideration. Just like any other drug, human growth hormone can pose several health risks when taken at excessive doses or with prolonged use . These side effects include:
It is common to see an allergic reaction on the injection site when human growth hormone is taken in the form of an injection. Some patients may even start producing an immune response against the hormone. The use of growth hormone may also put an individual at risk of developing Hodgkin's Lymphoma, which is a form of cancer that originates from lymphocytes.
There haven't been many studies related to the side effects of prolonged HGH use. A study called "SAGhE" in Europe investigated the long-term effects of human growth hormone in children . This study revealed that individuals with growth hormone deficiency and short stature who received recombinant HGH treatment during their childhood had a slightly increased risk of death in comparison to the general population of France.
Human growth hormone effectiveness
With the constant debate about the effectiveness of human growth hormone, many individuals are left confused as to whether or not they can benefit from this drug. The fact is that there have been a few studies indicating the positive effects of HGH use on lean mass gain and weight control. It may be, however, not the best choice of medication for building strength.
A study conducted by the University of Milan, Italy investigated the effects of human growth hormone use on individuals suffering from HIV/AIDS . This study discovered that there are significant anabolic effects on the subjects. Although this is the case, it is also important to remember that the effects on weak HIV/AIDS patients may show different results when compared with the results of studies performed on healthy adults.
In this study, recombinant HGH was administered at 0.028 mg/kg every day for a period of 24 weeks. It was found that the hormone helped in reducing IAT, trunk, and limb fat. It also increased lean mass and improved the overall physique of the subjects. There was no negative alteration in the glucose levels as well as the metabolism of lipids.
The main reason why athletes and bodybuilders use human growth hormone is to benefit from its dramatic effects on weight loss. These effects can be noticed within a few days after use. In terms of the anabolic effects on muscle tissue, human growth hormone has to be used consistently for at least 6 months before any noticeable changes occur. During this time, the human growth hormone and IGF-1 will steadily build up in the body and eventually bring about positive changes.
In conclusion, human growth hormone does not work as effectively as anabolic steroids in enhancing performance and physique. It must be administered in a specific way to promote any of the anabolic effects. Similarly, it must be used in limited and safe doses to avoid any negative effects. Amateur athletes and bodybuilders may not find that HGH benefits them to a significant extent.
It is, however, beneficial for athletes and bodybuilders who have progressed so far in their training that it may seem almost impossible to improve any further. Human growth hormone can be considered as an advanced compound that will help these individuals in pushing past their current stage of progress.
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