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Age‐related growth hormone‐releasing activity of growth hormone secretagogues in humans

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Growth hormone‐releasing peptides (GHRPs) are synthetic molecules with strong, dose‐related and reproducible growth hormone (GH)‐releasing activity in humans. GHRPs act at both the pituitary and the hypothalamic level, where specific receptors have been located. In adults, GHRPs release more GH than does GH‐releasing hormone (GHRH), whilst their co‐administration has a synergistic effect, indicating that they have, at least partially, different mechanisms of action. However, normal activity of GHRH‐secreting neurones is needed to achieve the full GH‐releasing effect of GHRPs. In contrast to GHRH, the GH‐releasing activity of GHRPs is not further increased by substances acting via inhibition of hypothalamic somatostatin, and is only blunted by substances that stimulate hypothalamic somatostatin release. Even free fatty acids and exogenous somatostatin, which act directly on somatotrophs, do no more than blunt the effect of GHRPs. Thus, the GH‐releasing activity of GHRPs is partially refractory to inhibitory influences. GHRPs act, at least in part, by antagonism of somatostatin activity, both at the pituitary and the hypothalamic level. The GH‐releasing effect of GHRPs is not dependent on gender, but undergoes age‐related variations. Gonadal steroids seem to influence the activity of GHRPs only in childhood. The reduced GH response to GHRPs in the elderly is probably due mainly to concomitant GHRH hypoactivity and somatostatinergic hyperactivity. A preserved GH‐releasing effect of GHRPs has been reported in acromegaly, anorexia nervosa, hyperthyroidism and in critically ill patients. GHRPs have also been found to increase GH release in children with idiopathic short stature, in GH deficiency and in obese patients, in whom there is a well‐known reduction of somatotroph function. The GH response to GHRPs is markedly reduced in hypothyroidism and Cushing's syndrome. □ Growth hormone, growth hormone‐releasing hormone, growth hormone‐releasing peptides, growth hormone secretagogues, ageing
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Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Turin, Turin, Italy

Publication date: 1997-11-01

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