January 18, 2006

Hormones enhance growth in kids with rheumatism

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The results of a clinical trial
suggest that human growth hormone (hGH) therapy improves
growth, body composition and potentially bone density in
children with rheumatic diseases, such as arthritis, and growth
retardation related to steroid treatment.

In the Archives of Disease in Childhood, investigators from
the Netherlands note that children with severe rheumatic
disease often require treatment with steroids, which may lead
to growth retardation and bone thinning. A beneficial effect of
hGH has been reported previously but most of the studies did
not have an untreated comparison group.

In their study, Mrs. F. K. Grote from Leiden University
Medical Center and colleagues randomly assigned 17 children
with rheumatic disease and growth retardation with or without
bone thinning to 2 years of hGH or no hGH.

Children treated with hGH experienced a significant
increase in height, while comparison children experienced a
slight drop in height.

Lean body mass also increased significantly in children
treated with hGH compared with untreated children.

These beneficial effects were independent of rheumatic
disease activity and steroid dose, suggesting the effects were
most likely related to the growth hormone, the authors contend.
Moreover, growth hormone therapy did not lead to premature
aging of the bones.

Changes in bone density were not significantly different
between the two groups. The researchers think that a study
lasting longer than 2 years might be necessary to determine the
true effect of hGH on bone thickness.

SOURCE: Archives of Disease in Childhood, January 2006.