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Growth hormone may boost immunity.

Growth hormone may boost immunity

A hormone important for normal growth may also enhance the body's ability to fight disease, according to findings presented in Boston last week at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The research reveals new details about the relationship between the neuroendocrine and immune systems, and suggests that brain hormones may be more important regulators of white blood cell activities than was previously believed.

It's no longer surprising to find feedback between the neuroendocrine system and the immune system, said Keith Kelley of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who led the research effort. So far, however, such research has focused mostly on how certain hormones suppress, rather than enhance, the immune system. Glucocorticoids, for example, have been shown to suppress the activities of disease-fighting cells.

Kelley's research, which appears in the Feb. 12 SCIENCE, shows that the growth hormone somatotropin can stimulate white blood cells called macrophages to produce more than double the normal amount of the superoxide anion, O.sub.3 -. Superoxide anion can in turn be converted into a variety of powerful oxidizing agents important to the cells' ability to kill bacteria after ingesting them.

The research, done on rats, does not prove that somatotropin exerts the same influence on human macrophages. But the concentrations of somatotropin used in his experiments are equivalent to those found under normal physiological conditions.

If his findings are confirmed, he said, somatotropin may rpoves useful not only for its growth-stimulating qualities but also as an immune booster. The hormone has already been mass-produced through genetic engineering and is commercially available as a treatment for dwarfism.
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Author:Weiss, Rick
Publication:Science News
Date:Feb 20, 1988
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