Growth hormone is also known as somatropin or as the chemical somatotropin.

Produced by the pituitary gland, a deficiency of this hormone in childhood causes dwarfism. On the other hand, too much of this hormone causes giantism and later, acromegaly.

Part One: Healthy Kids and hGH

Short people lead lesser it has been thought for years. They were less happy in marriage, less likely to succeed in school and career, and who hasn't heard of "Napoleon Syndrome": the stereotype angry short guy. So in 1958, when Dr. M. Rabin found a miracle treatment that made short kids grow, pediatricians and parents rejoiced.

From 1963-1985, Human Growth Hormone (hGH) was distributed to over 8000 children in the lowest 5% of the height scale to do nothing more than make them taller. There was never any double-blind testing of the drug (then called "Miracle Growth Compound") and no patient was warned about side effects or long term implications of it's use. And there were side effects. Bad ones.

In 1985 three hGH recipients contracted a rare neurological illness called Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), otherwise known as the human equivalent of "mad cow" disease. Since then, 34 more in the US and over 110 in the rest of the world who received this treatment have died of CJD.

Because CJD has up to a 30 year gestation, each year the National Institute of Health (USA) sends a letter to over 6000 of the patients who received Miracle Growth Compound with a full report of how many have contracted it. There are still over 2000 patients who haven't been located, and the NIH has no program to find and get the word out to them, let alone count them in any hGH side effect statistics.

Dr. Judith Fradkin, deputy director of the division of diabetes, endocrinology and metabolic diseases, a part of the NIH, defends the agency. "We've tried to take responsibility by giving out information in the updates". She believes that the NIH shouldn't be the conduit for contact among hGH recipients. "I think that it's a privacy issue," she says. "People don't necessarily want to be contacted. People don't like getting letters from us because it reminds them. That's why we never send updates during major holidays." (David Davis, Cut Short 1996)

There are now two basic forms of hGH, natural and synthetic. Natural hGH is extracted from pituitary glands of human cadavers. The guidelines for collection couldn't be too strict back in the frenzy to make short kids grow - only pituitaries of those who donated their bodies to science could be used and it took thousands of pituitaries to make up the batches of hGH to meet demand. They ruled out people who died of systemic infection, but did not rule out those who died of other disease (cancer, chronic neurological diseases etc).

Part Two: hGH and the Fountain of Youth

Synthetic hGH pharmaceutical products such as Protropin, from Genentech, and Humatrope, from Eli Lilly have been available since 1986 but side effects associated with their use prohibit the average person from obtaining them. Synthetic hGH is legally available for the treatment of dwarfism and specific HGH adult deficiency and is extremely expensive (about $40,000 US per year, though Eli Lilly provides it free to dwarfism patients who show financial need).

Approximately one-third of all patients taking synthetic hGH develop antibodies to it. These antibodies are a definite threat to normal immune function as well as to the body's own supply of GH. Other documented side effects include carpal tunnel syndrome, abnormal bone growth, chronic fatigue, reduced life-span and obesity due to disturbed insulin metabolism. Over the long-term, tumors may grow and neurological diseases may progress faster in patients with increased GH.

So why are people smuggling pharmaceutical grade hGH from Mexico, China and South Africa? Why is it that if you walk into any vitamin store and you will find GH Stimulators (herbal supplements that claim to stimulate your pituitary to manufacture more of your own natural Growth Hormone). hGH nasal sprays, rectal sprays, oral drops, sprays and tablets are sold all over the internet. Why would anyone want to take this stuff?

Because it's the new wonder drug that works wonders. Anti-aging, weight loss, increased muscle tone and strength, more energy, wounds heal faster, metabolism increases, increased sex drive, get babes (yes, there are even claims it increases pheromone production so you lure the ladies with your scent). But it's synthetic - right?

Right - pharmaceutical grade hGH is synthetic. GH Stimulators and topical hGH are herbal and/or all-natural. Synthetic, all natural and herbal don't mean VEGETARIAN or NOT GENETICALLY ENGINEERED.

Here are some of the ingredients you might find in a dose of All Natural Herbal hGH:

COLOSTRUM - Colostrum is the pre-milk liquid produced by the mammary gland during the first 24-48 hours after giving birth. Instead of feeding it to baby cows to build their immune systems, they bottle and refine it for you, the consumer.

PHOSPHATIDYL SERINE - Source - bovine brain.

GLYSINE - Glysine is easily synthesized, but more cheaply (and naturally) derived from gelatin. Gelatin is still made from animal hide and and hoof.

ANTERIOR PITUITARY - The back of a pituitary gland. Though advertised by many All Natural supplements, I could find no origin of the material used.

GROWTH HORMONE - this is the stuff - never explains where it's derived from, genetically engineered or natural.

IGF-1 - insulin-like growth hormone - Please see Witnie's excellent excellent (and just as unsettling) node

This may be yet another case of everybody jumping on the stay young/stay pretty bandwagon without looking to see if the wagon is safe. Will we see people who take an inexpensive supplement contract CJD? Will the one-third of the population who take a Growth Stimulator and develops antibodies to their own growth hormone die or become gravely ill when their immune function is gone? What about Vegetarians who find out they've been getting cow brain and gelatin in their oral spray - will they sue?

my bet is yes on all accounts.

You can read the entire article Cut Short by David Davis at
The best information I found on the side effects of hGH was at a pro hGH website from 1996:
To find the origin of many of the ingredients above I called a few of the companies. Only one company was helpful - .
The human growth hormone (hGH, somatropine) is mentioned for people whose own hGH production level is insufficient. NOT for people who'd prefer to be tall for aesthetical reasons nor top athletics who also use hGH supplements (1). The pharmaceutical hGH production is via genetic engineering the microorganisms, but before the GMO-era it was extracted from sheep brains (2). This may give a link to the CJD mentioned in the previous write-up, like the possible link between animal feed based on sheep products to BSE to CJD. However, at the moment of writing this (the story with the prions) isn't scientifically proven. The hGH treatment of children who do have insufficient hGH production of their own tends to be beneficiary, but when children are treated who don't have a shortage of own hGH, the treatment must be finished, otherwise it will result in a delayed growth pattern. Reported side effects of the treatment are psychic disfunction and a possible relation with leukemia (1).

The text is a small section of my thesis Applied Philosophy, called "Acceptance of genetically modified microorganisms on the basis of points of view of life".
1: Reiss, M.J. and Straughan, R. Improving nature? The science and ethics of genetic engineering. Cambridge University Press. 1996. 288 p.
2: Schellekens, H. Bionieuws. March 1996.

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