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Drug Boosts Natural Growth Hormone in Seniors
Date:11/6/2008

MK-677 brought muscle mass, but long-term effects on vitality unclear, scientists say

THURSDAY, Nov. 6 (HealthDay News) -- An experimental drug can restore the amounts of muscle-linked growth hormone in seniors to youthful levels, a new study shows.

Those on the therapy also gained muscle mass over the two-year trial, scientists say. However, there's no clear indication that this led to significant improvements in their strength or function.

Still, it does raise the hope that by increasing natural growth hormone Americans might be able to beat back the ravages of age.

"As we all get older, our body composition changes," explained study author Dr. Michael O. Thorner, a teaching professor of internal medicine at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. "So, people in their 80s and 90s all look the same: their fat is distributed in the center and the abdomen, and they lose a lot of muscle mass."

"This has become an increasing problem as life expectancy has increased from 45 at the turn of the century to now over 80," he continued. "Obviously people would like to remain independent and functional as long as possible, but these changes work against them."

The challenge is to stop or at least slow down those changes.

"Because this age-related reduction in muscle mass is associated with a decrease in growth hormone secretion, the rationale for the therapy we're studying is to try and address the problem by boosting the normal secretion of this hormone," Thorner said.

His team reported its findings in the Nov. 3 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Human growth hormone, produced naturally by the body's pituitary gland, is essential to healthy development and the maintenance of tissues and organs. But as people enter their 30s and 40s, levels of the hormone start to decline. The use of synthetic versions of human growth hormone has also become the focus
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