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M Jarfelt, H Fors, B Lannering and R Bjarnason

Objective: Treatment for childhood leukaemia induces many risk factors for development of decreased bone mineral density (BMD). Physical activity is also known to affect BMD. The aim was to study BMD and markers of bone turnover in a well-defined group of survivors of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) who had all reached final height as well as peak bone mass, taking both previous treatment and physical activity into consideration.

Design: All patients treated for ALL before the onset of puberty in the region of western Sweden, between 1973 and 1985, in first remission were included. Thirty-five out of forty-seven patients aged 20–32 years participated. Nineteen patients had received cranial radiotherapy, and the median follow-up time was 20 years.

Methods: BMD was assessed using dual-energy X-ray absorbtiometry (DEXA). Serum concentrations of markers of bone turnover were analysed. Physical performance was measured using a performance exercise capacity stress test.

Results: BMD was slightly reduced in lumbar spine (−0.4 SD), but not in femoral neck or total body. BMD in femoral neck was correlated to physical performance and dose of corticosteroid, but no correlation was found with spontaneous growth hormone (GH) secretion. Markers of bone turnover were also correlated to physical performance, but not to GH secretion.

Conclusions: Physical fitness seems to be the most important factor in developing and preserving normal bone mineral density in ALL patients. We propose that lifestyle education promoting physical activity is encouraged from an early point in time for these patients.

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M Jarfelt, B Lannering, I Bosaeus, G Johannsson and R Bjarnason

Objective: Obesity is frequently reported in patients treated for childhood leukaemia. Obesity, particularly abdominal obesity, is one of the main characteristics of the metabolic syndrome and a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM).

Design: All patients treated for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) before the onset of puberty in the region of western Sweden, between 1973 and 1985, and in first remission, were included. 35 out of 47 patients aged 20–32 years participated. 19 patients had received cranial radiotherapy, and the median follow-up time was 20 years. The focus of this report was to study body composition and signs of the metabolic syndrome and correlate the findings to spontaneous growth hormone (GH) secretion.

Methods: Body composition was assessed using dual-energy X-ray absorbtiometry (DEXA). We analyzed serum concentrations of insulin, glucose, leptin and lipids.

Results: No patient was obese according to World Health Organization criteria (body mass index, BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2) but one-third were overweight (BMI 25–29.9 kg/m2). The maximal GH peak during 24 h (GHmax) was correlated to percentage of total body fat (r = −0.42; P = 0.017), trunk fat (r = −0.5; P = 0.005) and fat-free mass (r = 0.42; P = 0.017). GHmax was also correlated to s-triglycerides (r = −0.54; P = 0.001), low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (r = −0.382; P = 0.024) and high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (r = 0.45; P = 0.007).

Conclusions: We found little effect on BMI but an increased percentage of total body fat, especially trunk fat, and a tendency for an unfavourable lipid profile in adult survivors of childhood leukaemia. These findings were related to low endogenous GH secretion due to cranial irradiation.

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M Boguszewski, J Dahlgren, R Bjarnason, S Rosberg, LM Carlsson, B Carlsson and K Albertsson-Wikland

The product of the obese (ob) gene, leptin, is an adipocyte-derived hormone that is involved in the regulation of appetite and body weight. This study was undertaken in order to describe the basal serum levels of leptin in prepubertal short children born small for gestational age (SGA) and their relationship with growth parameters, before and during growth hormone (GH) treatment. Eighty-nine prepubertal short children (66 boys, 23 girls; height standard deviation score (SDS), -5.4 to -2.0; age, 2.0 to 12.8 years) born SGA, 12 of whom (9 boys, 3 girls) had signs of Silver-Russell syndrome, were included in the study. Serum leptin concentrations were measured by radioimmunoassay. Leptin levels in the children born SGA were compared with those in a reference group of 109 prepubertal healthy children born at an appropriate size for gestational age (AGA). The mean (S.D.) change in height SDS was 0.11 (0.22) during the year before the start of GH therapy (0.1 IU/kg/day) and increased to 0.82 (0.44) during the first year (P < 0.001) and to 1.28 (0.59) during the 2-year period of GH therapy (P < 0.001). The children born SGA were significantly leaner than the reference group. An inverse correlation was found between leptin and chronological age in the SGA group (r = -0.31, P < 0.01). The mean serum level of leptin in the children born SGA who were older than 5.5 years of age was 2.8 micrograms/l which was significantly lower than the mean value of 3.7 micrograms/l found in the children born AGA of the same age range. The difference remained after adjustment of leptin levels for sex, age, body mass index (BMI) and weight-for-height SDS (WHSDSSDS). Leptin correlated with WHSDSSDS (r = 0.32, P < 0.001) and BMI (r = 0.36, P < 0.01) in the reference population, but not in the SGA group. No correlation was found between leptin and spontaneous 24-h GH secretion, insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I or IGF-binding protein-3 levels, or with fasting insulin or cortisol levels. Leptin levels at the start of GH treatment were correlated with the growth response over both 1 year (r = 0.46, P < 0.001) and 2 years (r = 0.51, P < 0.001) of GH therapy. Using multiple regression analysis, models including leptin levels at the start of GH therapy could explain 51% of the variance in the growth response after 1 year and 44% after 2 years of GH treatment. In conclusion, serum leptin levels are reduced in short children born SGA and are inversely correlated with chronological age. Leptin concentrations correlate with the growth response to GH treatment and might be used as a marker for predicting the growth response to GH treatment.

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H Matsuoka, H Fors, I Bosaeus, S Rosberg, K Albertsson-Wikland and R Bjarnason

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to follow changes in body composition, estimated by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), in relation to changes in leptin during the first year of GH therapy in order to test the hypothesis that leptin is a metabolic signal involved in the regulation of GH secretion in children. DESIGN AND METHODS: In total, 33 prepubertal children were investigated. Their mean (S.D.) chronological age at the start of GH treatment was 11.5 (1.6) years, and their mean height was -2.33 (0.38) S.D. scores (SDS). GH was administered subcutaneously at a daily dose of 0.1 (n=26) or 0.2 (n=7) IU/kg body weight. Ten children were in the Swedish National Registry for children with GH deficiency, and twenty-three children were involved in trials of GH treatment for idiopathic short stature. Spontaneous 24-h GH secretion was studied in 32 of the children. In the 24-h GH profiles, the maximum level of GH was determined and the secretion rate estimated by deconvolution analysis (GHt). Serum leptin levels were measured at the start of GH treatment and after 10 and 30 days and 3, 6 and 12 months of treatment. Body composition measurements, by DXA, were performed at baseline and 12 months after the onset of GH treatment. RESULTS: After 12 months of GH treatment, mean height increased from -2.33 to -1.73 SDS and total body fat decreased significantly by 3.0 (3.3)%. Serum leptin levels were decreased significantly at all time points studied compared with baseline. There was a significant correlation between the change in total body fat and the change in serum leptin levels during the 12 months of GH treatment, whereas the leptin concentration per unit fat mass did not change. In a multiple stepwise linear regression analysis with 12 month change in leptin levels as the dependent variable, the percentage change in fat over 12 months, the baseline fat mass (%) of body mass and GHt accounted for 24.0%, 11.5% and 12.2% of the variability respectively. CONCLUSIONS: There are significant correlations between changes in leptin and fat and endogenous GH secretion in short children with various GH secretory capacities. Leptin may be the messenger by which the adipose tissue affects hypothalamic regulation of GH secretion.

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UH Jansson, B Kristiansson, P Magnusson, L Larsson, K Albertsson-Wikland and R Bjarnason

OBJECTIVE: In children with coeliac disease, the ingestion of gluten causes small intestinal inflammation and a clinical picture of malabsorption, weight reduction and short stature. Decreased alkaline phosphatase (ALP) during gluten challenge was found in a previous study. ALP is a marker of bone formation and ALP activities are correlated with growth velocity. The aim of this study was to characterise the previously observed decrease of total ALP by investigating three specific bone ALP isoforms (bone/intestinal, B1 and B2) and three specific liver ALP isoforms (L1, L2 and L3) and, moreover, to correlate these ALP isoforms with other growth factors and growth markers. In addition, we also studied the association with possible weight changes, small intestinal mucosa inflammation, sex, age and gluten dose during gluten challenge. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Bone and liver ALP isoforms, IGF-I, IGF-binding protein (IGFBP)-3 and serum cross-linked carboxy-terminal telopeptide of type I collagen (ICTP) were measured together with change in weight and small intestinal mucosa histopathology in 54 children with earlier enteropathy who participated in a 4-week gluten challenge. RESULTS: We observed a decreased total ALP activity after 4 weeks of gluten challenge, 7.8+/-1.8 to 6.5+/-1.7 microkat/l (means +/- s.d.), which was mainly due to a reduction of the bone ALP isoforms. The sum of all three bone ALP isoforms decreased from 6.3+/-1.7 to 5.1+/-1.6 microkat/l. The decreased activities of the bone ALP isoforms correlated with the observed reductions of IGF-I (r=0.74, P<0.001), IGFBP-3 (r=0.51, P<0.001) and ICTP (r=0.57, P<0.001). The decrease of the growth factors and growth markers correlated with weight reduction, but when influences from the change in weight were adjusted for, the partial correlation of the small intestinal mucosa inflammation was significant for IGF-I (r=-0.56, P<0.001) and IGFBP-3 (r=-0.55, P<0.001). CONCLUSION: The decrease of total ALP was due to a reduction of bone ALP. The decrease of IGF-I and IGFBP-3 was independently correlated with weight change and small intestinal inflammation.

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R Bjarnason, M Boguszewski, J Dahlgren, L Gelander, B Kristrom, S Rosberg, B Carlsson, K Albertsson-Wikland and LM Carlsson

OBJECTIVE: Nutritional status is an important determinant of growth, and previous studies have indicated that this is due, at least in part, to an increased target-tissue sensitivity to GH. An attractive candidate for mediating this effect is leptin, a hormone secreted by the adipose tissue. The aim of this study was to investigate if there was a connection between GH-binding protein (GHBP) and leptin. DESIGN AND METHODS: We investigated the relationship between serum levels of leptin and those of GHBP in 229 prepubertal children. These included 107 healthy children with normal GH secretion, 55 GH-deficient (GHD) children and 55 children born small for gestational age (SGA) sampled on one occasion for GHBP and leptin, and 12 healthy children followed longitudinally at monthly interval for 1 year. RESULTS: In the healthy children and in those born SGA, the serum concentration of GHBP was positively correlated with that of leptin (r = 0.65, P < 0.001; r = 0.74, P < 0.001 respectively). There was no correlation between GHBP and leptin in the group of children with GHD (r = 0.27, not significant). This means that leptin alone explained 42% of the variation of GHBP in the healthy group and 55% in the SGA group. The correlation remained after adjustment for body mass index and age in the healthy children (r = 0.57, P < 0.0001, r2 = 0.33) and for children born SGA (r = 0.74, P < 0.0001, r2 = 0.55). There was a positive correlation between the intra-individual monthly changes in GHBP and changes in leptin respectively, in the 12 healthy children followed longitudinally, the mean of the correlation coefficients was 0.38 (median = 0.29; range 0.03 to 0.86; P < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: There was a highly significant correlation between serum levels of leptin and those of GHBP, except in children with GHD. The possibility that leptin could mediate the effects of body fat mass on GH sensitivity, therefore, merits further investigation.