Growth hormone: A hormone made in the pituitary gland that stimulates the release of another hormone called somatomedin by the liver, thereby causing growth. Also known as somatotropin. Growth hormone is produced by the anterior pituitary gland, the front section of the gland, and is a polypeptide that consists of 191 amino acids. Growth hormone is given to children with pituitary dwarfism (short stature due to underfunction of the anterior pituitary) to help them grow. Excessive growth hormone production in children can lead to gigantism, and in adults it can lead to acromegaly.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2003 approved a new use for Humatrope, a biosynthesized brand of human growth hormone, for the long-term treatment of children with idiopathic (of unknown origin) short stature, also called non-growth hormone deficient short stature. "Short stature" has been defined by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the Growth Hormone Research Society as height more than 2 standard deviations (SD) below the mean for age and sex. This corresponds to the shortest 2.3% of children. This new indication restricts therapy to children who are even shorter, specifically more than 2.25 SD below the mean for age and sex, or the shortest 1.2% of children. For example, for 10-year old boys and girls, this would correspond to heights of less than 4' 1" inch. This would further correspond to heights of less than 5' 3" and 4' 11" in adult men and women, respectively. In clinical studies, the drug added several inches to the children's eventual height.
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter
Last Editorial Review: 5/13/2016