Aug 7, 2012

Growth Hormone May Improve Memory in Early Alzheimer's Patients

A drug already approved by the FDA might help slow memory decline and improve mental function in people who are in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease (MCI).

by Alzheimer's Reading Room

Growth Hormone May Improve Memory in Early Alzheimer's Patients

The drug, Tesamorelin (brand name Egrifta), stimulates the release of human growth hormone from the brain's pituitary gland. It drug was approved by the FDA in 2010.

This research finding really gets my attention. I had been wondering about the potential positive effects of growth hormone-releasing hormone after reading previous research studies.

Egrifta is a close copy of a chemical that's already made by the body called growth-hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH). The drug stimulates the production of human growth hormone (HGH). Human growth hormone triggers the release of a whole cascade of other hormones including insulin and its close cousin, insulin-like growth factor.

In this study, twenty weeks of GHRH administration had favorable effects on cognition in both adults with MCI and healthy older adults. Further study is needed to determine therapeutic potential, but I intend to pay close attention.

Study Examines Effects of Growth Hormone-Releasing Hormone on Cognitive Function

Treatment with growth hormone-releasing hormone appears to be associated with favorable cognitive effects among both adults with mild cognitive impairment and healthy older adults, according to a randomized clinical trial published Online First by Archives of Neurology.
“Growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH), growth hormone and insulinlike growth factor 1 have potent effects on brain function, their levels decrease with advancing age, and they likely play a role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer disease,” the authors write as background information in the study.
To examine the effects of GHRH on cognitive function in healthy older adults and in adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), Laura D. Baker, Ph.D., of the University of Washington School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, and colleagues, conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in which participants self-administered daily injections of a form of human GHRH (tesamorelin), or placebo.

The authors enrolled 152 adults ranging in age from 55 to 87 years (average age, 68 years) and 137 participants (76 healthy patients and 61 patients with MCI) successfully completed the study. At baseline, at 10 and 20 weeks of treatment, and after a 10-week washout (30 weeks total), the authors collected blood samples and administered parallel versions of cognitive tests.

Among the original 152 patients enrolled in the study, analysis indicated a favorable effect of GHRH on cognition, which was comparable in adults with MCI and healthy older adults. Analysis among the 137 patients who successfully completed the trial also showed that treatment with GHRH had a favorable effect on cognition among both groups of patients. Although the healthy adults outperformed those with MCI overall, the cognitive benefits relative to placebo was comparable among both groups.

Treatment with GHRH also increased insulinlike growth factor 1 levels by 117 percent, which remained within the physiological range, and increased fasting insulin levels within the normal range by 35 percent in adults with MCI but not in healthy adults.
“Our results replicate and expand our earlier positive findings, demonstrating that GHRH administration has favorable effects on cognitive function not only in healthy older adults but also in adults at increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia,” the authors conclude. “Larger and longer-duration treatment trials are needed to firmly establish the therapeutic potential of GHRH administration to promote brain health in normal aging and ‘pathological aging.’”

(Arch Neurol. Published online August 6, 2012. doi:10.1001/archneurol.2012.1970. Available pre-embargo to the media at

Editor’s Note: Tesamorelin and placebo were provided at no cost to the study by Theratechnologies, Inc. This research was supported by National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Aging grants, and by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. A portion of the work was conduced through the Clinical Research Center Facility at the University of Washington Medical Center, which is supported by a National Institutes of Health/National Center for Research Resources grant.


Dementia Patients are People Too

Communicating in Alzheimer's World

Why Do Alzheimer's Caregivers Torture Themselves?

Alzheimer's Disease Statistics

Urinary Tract Infections, Urinary Incontinence

Alzheimer's and the Importance of Thinking Positive

Frightened, Bewildered, Apprehensive, Anxious, Angry

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room