For affected patients, daily growth hormone injections are the standard of care. Prior to the development of synthetic growth hormone in 1985, this typically involved the use of hormones extracted from the pituitary glands of cadavers.
The authors said that between 1963 and 1985, roughly 7,700 American patients were treated with cadaver-derived growth hormone as part of a national program.
This practice was stopped, however, following the revelation that during the 1980s about 200 patients in the United States and abroad developed a rare and fatal brain disorder called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease after having been injected with cadaver-derived growth hormone that was contaminated with abnormal proteins.
The new analysis revealed that, despite possible exposure to contaminated proteins, none of the patients who had undergone treatment with growth hormone from cadavers faced a higher risk for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, frontotemporal lobar degeneration or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis -- also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.
"The bottom-line fear is that diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's might be transmissible and possibly infectious, which could be an issue beyond just human growth hormone patients," Trojanowski said. "Just think of all the organ transplants done in the U.S., and the risk of disease transmission if some of them use material that came from Alzheimer's or Parkinson's patients."
"This [new] study is not absolute proof that such transmissions can't happen," he acknowledged. "But, to my mind, it considerably allays such concerns."
Cheryl Grady, a senior scientist with the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto, agreed.
"I'm not at all surprised by these results," Grady said. "The only neuro-degenerative disease that I'm aware of as being transmittable is what people call mad cow disease, a
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