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Johan Svensson and Bengt-Åke Bengtsson

In adults, GH replacement therapy will often be maintained for decades. Owing to the long duration of GH replacement in many adults, it is essential to establish the long-term safety aspects of the treatment. In this review, studies that have investigated the safety profile of long-term GH replacement will be reviewed with an emphasis on studies based on data from the Pfizer International Metabolic Database (KIMS). These studies show that long-term GH replacement in adults is safe and that long-term GH replacement may even improve cardiovascular mortality and morbidity in GH-deficient adults.

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Hans Herlitz, Olof Jonsson and Bengt-Åke Bengtsson

We investigated the relationship between mean plasma growth hormone (GH) concentration and cellular sodium transport in untreated and treated acromegaly. Seventeen patients (age 55±3 years) with active acromegaly were studied with respect to plasma GH (mean of 24 h GH profile) and erythrocyte electrolyte content as well as transmembrane sodium transport. The patients were reinvestigated two weeks after successful surgery (N=14) and again after one year (N=13). Erythrocyte electrolytes were analyzed by flame photometry and sodium influx and efflux rate constant determined by in vitro incubation using a modified Keyne's formula. In patients with active acromegaly there was a significant positive correlation between IGF-1 and cellular sodium transport, while GH tended to show a negative relationship to the same parameter. After successful treatment, both IGF-1 and GH disclosed a positive relationship to cellular sodium transport. After one year, a significant increase in erythrocyte sodium content was seen in the patients compared to the preoperative situation. In conclusion, if this is a generalized phenomenon the results are compatible with a sodium-retaining effect of GH via stimulation of transmembrane sodium transport. In active acromegaly this may be counteracted by a sodium transport inhibitor giving the reverse relationship between GH and cellular sodium transport.

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Kerstin Landin, Björn Petruson, Karl-Erik Jakobsson and Bengt-Åke Bengtsson

The aim of this study was to investigate the skeletal muscle sodium/potassium (Na/K) ratio in acromegaly before and 1 year after trans-sphenoidal removal of a growth hormone (GH)-secreting pituitary adenoma. Muscle biopsies were taken and skeletal muscle electrolytes, body composition, glucose, insulin and blood pressure were studied. Fasting blood glucose and plasma insulin levels, but not blood pressure, were higher in acromegalic patients (N = 9) than in controls (N = 6). The skeletal muscle potassium content was higher (p <0.01) but the sodium content and the Na/K ratio were lower (p<0.05 and p<0.001, respectively) in untreated patients with acromegaly as compared to weight-matched healthy controls. Elevated GH, glucose and insulin levels normalized after surgery. Blood pressure remained unchanged. The total body potassium content, the lean body mass and the total body water content decreased and the body fat content increased while the body weight was unchanged. The skeletal muscle potassium content decreased from [median (range)] 9.8 (9.2–11.5) to 7.7 (5.7–9.5) mmol/100 g wet wt (p<0.001). The skeletal muscle sodium content increased from 2.8 (2.5–3.9) to 5.1 (4.3–6.7) mmol/100 g wet wt (p<0.001) and the Na/K ratio increased from 0.28 (0.26–0.38) to 0.56 (0.51–1.18) (p< 0.001) after surgery, which is a higher level than the controls with a Na/K ratio of 0.47 (0.39–0.84) (p<0.01). These changes seem to be mediated by a decreased GH effect on the Na/K pump after successful trans-sphenoidal surgery in acromegaly.

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Eva Bagge, Staffan Edén, Thord Rosén and Bengt-Åke Bengtsson

The prevalence of radiographic osteoarthritis in hand and knee joints was studied in elderly patients with acromegaly and growth hormone deficiency, respectively, and compared with a normal population of elderly people. There were no major differences in the prevalence of osteoarthritis between the acromegalics and the normal population, but the patients with growth hormone deficiency had significantly (p<0.001) less osteoarthritis than the normal population. The lack of differences between the acromegalics and the normal population could be an effect of the age interval studied in which the prevalence of osteoarthritis is high. The low prevalence of osteoarthritis in patients with growth hormone deficiency suggests that growth hormone is an important factor in the development of osteoarthritis.

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Cesar L Boguszewski, Lars Hynsjö, Gudmundur Johannsson, Bengt-Åke Bengtsson and Lena MS Carlsson

Boguszewski CL, Hynsjö L, Johansson G, Bengtsson B-Å, Carlsson LMS. 22-kD Growth hormone exclusion assay: a new approach to measurement of non-22-kD growth hormone isoforms in human blood. Eur J Endocrinol 1996;135:573–82. ISSN 0804–4643

Human growth hormone (GH) exists in a variety of isoforms. In the pituitary, the most abundant isoform is 22-kD GH (22 K GH), while other isoforms (non-22 K GH) are present in variable amounts. In human plasma, the GH heterogeneity contributes to the wide variability in GH levels measured by different immunoassays. The physiological role of the non-22 K GH isoforms is poorly understood, but they may represent a spectrum of agonists or antagonists of the GH receptor. It is possible that increased amounts of non-22 K GH isoforms in the circulation contribute to the growth failure observed in some short children and may be involved in the pathophysiology of acromegaly and other unrelated diseases. Currently, there is no method available to evaluate the ratio of non-22 K GH isoforms to total GH in large sets of serum samples. In this report, a novel assay procedure is described in which monomeric and dimeric isoforms of 22 K GH are removed from serum and non-22 K GH isoforms are quantitated. The 22 K GH exclusion assay (22 K GHEA) was established as a screening method to identify conditions in which the ratio of non-22 K GH isoforms to total GH in human blood is altered. A 22 K GH-speciflc monoclonal antibody (MCB) is used for binding to 22 K GH in serum. Magnetic beads coated with rat anti-mouse immunoglobulin G and a magnetic device are used to remove the 22 K GH-MCB complexes from serum. The non-22 K GH isoforms are measured by a polyclonal antibody-based immunoradiometric assay (GH-IRMA). The assay procedure was optimized systematically by statistical experimental designs. In serum spiked with monomeric or dimeric 22 K GH, the 22 K GH extraction was efficient at GH levels up to 100 μg/l (range 96.3–100%). The intra- and interassay precision for non-22 K GH levels of 3.9 μg/l were 2.6% and 8.7%, respectively, while for levels of 0.6 μg/l, which were very close to the detection limits of the assay, the coefficients were 17.0% and 21.6%, respectively. The percentage of non-22 K GH isoforms determined in serum samples from three different groups of subjects showed clearly distinctive values. The 22 K GHEA is a new method for evaluation of non-22 K GH isoforms in human blood under different physiological and pathophysiological conditions.

Cesar L Boguszewski, RCEM, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Bruna Stråket, 16 S-413 45 Göteborg, Sweden

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Josef Koranyi, Ingvar Bosaeus, Magne Alpsten, Bengt-Åke Bengtsson and Gudmundur Johannsson

Objective: Men with growth hormone deficiency (GHD) may be more sensitive to GH treatment than women in terms of changes in body composition. We have studied whether age, body-mass index (BMI) and the different types of methodology used to assess body composition may explain these differences.

Design: Forty-four men and forty-four women with GHD, closely matched for age and BMI, were studied before and after 6 months of GH replacement. The dose of GH was individually adjusted. Body composition was assessed by measurements of potassium-40, total body nitrogen (TBN), tritiated water dilution, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA). Four- and five-compartment models for body composition were also calculated.

Results: The total daily dose of GH was similar in men and women at 6 months. Serum insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) was higher in men than women at baseline and after 6 months of treatment (P = 0.01, paired t-test). The increment was, however, similar. In women, GH treatment reduced body weight and increased TBN. In both men and women, total body water and body cell mass increased, while total body fat (BF) mass decreased. At baseline, mean total BF varied considerably depending on the methodology used, with the highest value obtained from DXA. The changes in BF were, however, less dependent on the methodology, but DXA and BIA demonstrated the largest inconsistency between men and women.

Conclusions: These results suggest that gender differences in body composition in response to GH treatment are small, if adjustments are made for baseline factors such as age, BMI and dose of GH. Different methods of body composition measurements produce different results, but changes in response to GH administration are less inconsistent.

Free access

Helga Á Sigurjónsdóttir, Josef Koranyi, Magnus Axelson, Bengt-Åke Bengtsson and Gudmundur Johannsson

Objective: In the past years the interaction of GH and 11βhydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11βHSD) in the pathogenesis of central obesity has been suggested.

Design: We studied the effects of 9 months of GH treatment on 11βHSD activity and its relationship with body composition and insulin sensitivity in 30 men with abdominal obesity, aged 48–66 years, in a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

Methods: Urinary steroid profile was used to estimate 11βHSD type 1 and 2 (11βHSD1 and 11βHSD2) activities. Abdominal s.c. and visceral adipose tissues were measured using computed tomography. Glucose disposal rate (GDR) obtained during a euglycaemic–hyperinsulinaemic glucose clamp was used to assess insulin sensitivity.

Results: In the GH-treated group the 11βHSD1 activity decreased transiently after 6 weeks (P < 0.01) whereas 11βHSD2 increased after 9 months of treatment (P < 0.05). Between 6 weeks and 9 months, GDR increased and visceral fat mass decreased. Changes in 11βHSD1 correlated with changes in visceral fat mass between baseline and 6 weeks. There were no significant correlations between 11βHSD1 and 11βHSD 2 and changes in GDR.

Discussion: The study demonstrates that short- and long-term GH treatment has different effects on 11βHSD1 and 11βHSD2 activity. Moreover, the data do not support that long-term metabolic effects of GH are mediated through its action on 11βHSD.

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Edna J L Barbosa, Josef Koranyi, Helena Filipsson, Bengt-Åke Bengtsson, Cesar Luiz Boguszewski and Gudmundur Johannsson


Clinical response to GH therapy in GH-deficient (GHD) adults varies widely. Good predictors of treatment response are lacking. The aim of the study was to develop mathematical models to predict changes in serum IGF1 and body composition (BC) in response to GH therapy in GHD adults.

Design and methods

One hundred and sixty-seven GHD patients (103 men, median age 50 years) were studied before and after 12 months of GH treatment. GH dose was tailored according to serum IGF1 concentrations. Good responders (GR) and poor responders (PR) to GH therapy were defined as patients with a response >60th and <40th percentile respectively, for changes in serum IGF1 levels (adjusted for GH cumulative dose) and in BC (lean body mass (LBM) and body fat determined using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry). A logistic regression model was used to predict the probability of being a GR or PR.


In the IGF1 prediction model, men (odds ratio (OR) 5.62: 95% confidence interval 2.59–12.18) and patients with higher insulin levels (OR 1.06: 1.00–1.12) were more likely to be GR. The accuracy of the prediction model was 70%. In the BC model, men (OR 10.72: 1.36–84.18) and GHD patients with lower LBM (OR 0.82: 0.73–0.92) and greater height (OR 1.23: 1.08–1.40) at baseline were more likely to be GR. The accuracy of the prediction model was 80%.


Accurate mathematical models to predict GH responsiveness in GHD adults were developed using gender, body height, baseline LBM, and serum insulin levels as the major clinical predictors.

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Thord Rosén, Staffan Edén, Göran Larson, Lars Wilhelmsen and Bengt-Åke Bengtsson

Patients with adult onset growth hormone deficiency have a decreased life expectancy owing to an increased mortality from cardiovascular disease. In the present study, 104 subjects (66 men and 38 women, aged 22–74 years) with growth hormone deficiency and with adequate replacement therapy with glucocorticoids, thyroid hormones and gonadal steroids were studied with respect to known risk factors for cardiovascular disease. For comparison, data from a population study, "the MONICA study", were obtained. The patients had a significantly higher body mass index compared to controls (p<0.001). Serum triglyceride concentration was higher (p<0.001) but there was no difference in serum total cholesterol concentration. Serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration was lower (p<0.001) in the patients. There was no difference in the prevalence of diabetes mellitus. The prevalence of treated hypertension was higher (p<0.05) in the patients but the prevalence of smoking was lower (p <0.001). Even after taking the increased body mass index into consideration, the changes in the prevalence of treated hypertension (p<0.05) and in the serum concentrations of triglycerides (p<0.05) and high-density lipoprotein concentrations (p<0.001) remained. These results indicate that growth hormone deficiency alters lipoprotein metabolism and increases the risk for development of hypertension, which in turn might contribute to the increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

Open access

Mariam Elbornsson, Galina Götherström, Celina Franco, Bengt-Åke Bengtsson, Gudmundur Johannsson and Johan Svensson


Little is known of the effects of long-term GH replacement on bone mineral content (BMC) and bone mineral density (BMD) in elderly GH-deficient (GHD) adults.


In this prospective, single-center, open-label study, the effects of 3-year GH replacement were determined in 45 GHD patients >65 years and in 45 younger control GHD patients with a mean age of 39.5 (s.e.m. 1.1) years. All patients had adult-onset disease and both groups were comparable in terms of number of anterior pituitary hormonal deficiencies, gender, body mass index, and waist:hip ratio.


The mean maintenance dose of GH was 0.24 (0.02) mg/day in the elderly patients and 0.33 (0.02) mg/day in the younger GHD patients (P<0.01). The 3 years of GH replacement induced a marginal effect on total body BMC and BMD, whereas femur neck and lumbar (L2–L4) spine BMC and BMD increased in both the elderly and the younger patients. The treatment response in femur neck BMC was less marked in the elderly patients (P<0.05 vs younger group). However, this difference disappeared after correction for the lower dose of GH in the elderly patients using an analysis of covariance. There were no between-group differences in responsiveness in BMC or BMD at other skeletal locations.


This study shows that GH replacement increases lumbar (L2–L4) spine and femur neck BMD and BMC in younger as well as elderly GHD patients. This supports the notion that long-term GH replacement is also useful in elderly GHD patients.