Human neurodegenerative diseases increase progressively with age and present a high social and economic burden. Growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) are both growth factors exerting trophic effects on neuronal regeneration in the central nervous system (CNS) and peripheral nervous system (PNS). GH and IGF-1 stimulate protein synthesis in neurons, glia, oligodendrocytes, and Schwann cells, and favor neuronal survival, inhibiting apoptosis. This study aims to evaluate the effect of GH and IGF-1 on neurons, and their possible therapeutic clinical applications on neuron regeneration in human subjects.
In the literature, we searched the clinical trials and followed up studies in humans, which have evaluated the effect of GH/IGF-1 on CNS and PNS. The following keywords have been used: “GH/IGF-1” associated with “neuroregeneration”, “amyotrophic lateral sclerosis”, “Alzheimer disease”, “Parkinson’s disease”, “brain”, and “neuron”.
Of the retrieved articles, we found nine articles about the effect of GH in healthy patients who suffered from traumatic brain injury (TBI), and six studies (four using IGF-1 and two GH therapy) in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The administration of GH in patients after TBI showed a significantly positive recovery of brain and mental function. Treatment with GH and IGF-1 therapy in ALS produced contradictory results.
Although strong findings have shown the positive effects of GH/IGF-1 administration on neuroregeneration in animal models, a very limited number of clinical studies have been conducted in humans. GH/IGF-1 therapy had different effects in patients with TBI, evidencing a high recovery of neurons and clinical outcome, while in ALS patients, the results are contradictory. More complex clinical protocols are necessary to evaluate the effect of GH/IGF-1 efficacy in neurodegenerative diseases. It seems evident that GH and IGF-1 therapy favors the optimal recovery of neurons when a consistent residual activity is still present. Furthermore, the effect of GH/IGF-1 could be mediated by, or be overlapped with that of other hormones, such as estradiol and testosterone.