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J Immunol. 2001 Mar 15;166(6):4195-201.

Immune enhancing effect of a growth hormone secretagogue.

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Department of Immunology Research, Merck Research Laboratories, Rahway, NJ 07065, USA.


Growth hormone (GH) has been known to enhance immune responses, whether directly or through the insulin like growth factor-1, induced by GH. Recently a nonpeptidyl small m.w. compound, a GH secretagogue (GHS), was found to induce the production of GH by the pituitary gland. In this study, we examined the effect of GHS in immunological functions of 5- to 6-wk-old and 16- to 24-month-old mice. In young mice, we observed a significant increase in PBLs, but T and B cell-proliferative responses were not consistently enhanced. The old mice, treated with GHS for 3 wk, did not show increases in peripheral lymphocytes, but they exhibited a statistically significant increase in thymic cellularity and differentiation. When inoculated with a transplantable lymphoma cell line, EL4, the treated old mice showed statistically significant resistance to the initiation of tumors and the subsequent metastases. Generation of CTL to EL4 cells was also enhanced in the treated mice, suggesting that GHS has a considerable immune enhancing effect, particularly in the old mice. We have also found that GHS promoted better thymic engraftment in bone marrow transplant of SCID mice. We found more cycling cells in the spleens of treated mice, suggesting that GHS may exert its immune enhancing effect by promoting cell division in lymphoid cells. These observations ascribe to GHS a novel therapy possible for aging, AIDS, and transplant individuals, whose immune functions are compromised.

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