rhGH Treatment Stimulates Brain Growth, Normalizing of Bone Age in Children With Growth Hormone Deficiency

Recombinant human growth hormone (rhGH) treatment can help children with isolated growth hormone deficiency (IGHD) achieve normal brain volumes, according to new data. After an average 2-year duration of treatment with rhGH, bone age in children with IGHD became more normal as well.

Growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor one (IGF-1) have a key role in neurogenesis and brain development. However, data have been scarce regarding brain growth in patients with IGHD after treatment with rhGH to achieve mid parental height. To characterize brain growth in these patients, a team of researchers in Malaysia compared the volumes of key brain structures in 2 boys and 6 girls (mean age, 11 yr) with IGHD before and after rhGH treatment with these volumes in age matched controls.  

The researchers used 3T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with voxel-based morphology to measure the baseline volumes of key brain structures in all participants. These structures included the pituitary gland, basal ganglia, corpus callosum, thalamus, hippocampus, and amygdala. Follow-up imaging was conducted after participants with IGHD had received rhGH for an average of 2 years. In addition, the team used the Tanner-Whitehouse method to determine the bone age of the left hand for each participant.

As a result, the researchers found that, although participants with IGHD initially had smaller mean volumes of the pituitary gland, right thalamus, hippocampus, and amygdala compared with controls, these volumes increased to those of the controls after rhGH treatment. They also found that bone-age became more normal in participants with IGHD after rhGH treatment.

These findings led the researchers to conclude that “Semi-automated volumetric assessment of the pituitary gland, hippocampus, and amygdala using MRI may provide an objective assessment of response to rhGH therapy.”

—Ellen Kurek

Low LS, Wong JHD, Tan LK, et al. Preliminary study of longitudinal changes in the pituitary and brain of children on growth hormone therapy. J Neuroradiol. Published online November 17, 2021.