Infants who have chronic renal (kidney) failure (CRF) often grow slowly and may never grow to a normal height. A new study conducted in Spain indicates that supplementing Human Growth Hormone in infants may be a safe way to treat delayed growth connected with CRF.
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located in the abdomen just below the ribcage. The kidneys act as filters for the blood. They remove waste products and extra water from the blood and turn them into urine which is sent to the bladder and then passed out of the body. The kidneys also help regulate blood pressure, produce hormones (chemicals in the body) that promote bone growth, make new red blood cells to carry oxygen, and balance other chemicals in the blood like sodium and potassium.
When the kidneys slow down or stop working, waste products and extra water can build up in the body. Chemicals in the blood can become out of balance which can cause problems in other parts of the body, and bone growth can be delayed. Sometimes kidney failure is “acute”, which means it develops quickly but can be treated so it goes away. Other cases of kidney failure are “chronic” which means they do not go away and actually keep getting worse over time. Chronic renal or kidney failure is diagnosed in the U.S. in only one or two children out of every 100,000 under the age of 19 each year.
CRF is often treated with dialysis or with kidney transplants to replace failing organs. One of the long-lasting side-effects of CRF can be delays in growth that can prevent a patient from reaching a normal height as an adult. Recently deceased actor Gary Coleman’s short stature has been directly connected with chronic renal failure that began when he was an infant.
New Growth Hormone Research
Some infants with CRF recover from growth delays if given aggressive therapy to make sure they receive all the nutrients their bodies need. Researchers from Spain and Portugal collaborated in a study to find help for infants who did not respond to nutritional therapy. Their study involved 16 infants who were receiving dialysis or similar treatments for chronic kidney disease and who continued to fail to grow despite careful nutritional therapy.
After treating half the infants with growth hormone, researchers monitored all 16 children for one year. During that time, the infants receiving growth hormone grew an average of 5.7 inches, while the group without supplemental growth hormone grew only 3.7 inches.
Researchers also monitored the children for potentially dangerous side-effects that had previously limited the use of growth hormone in infants, including early bone maturation and the progression of kidney disease. The infants receiving growth hormone did not show any harmful effects from the treatment.
Some countries, including Spain and Portugal, do not allow use of growth hormone in children under age two. In other countries which do allow growth hormone to be prescribed for young children, including the United States, many doctors have been hesitant to use the hormone in very young children. The results of this study indicate that children who do not respond to nutritional therapy may have an unnecessary delay in growth if growth hormone is not given at an early age.
The research team in Spain and Portugal intends to continue to follow the growth of the children from the study to gain more long-term data. The study was a clinical trial sponsored by Novo Nordisk.
The Magic Foundation
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
National Institutes of Health: Medline Plus
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