From the Cadaver to the Laboratory

Up until the mid-1980s, the only source of HGH was from deceased human beings. Researchers removed the pituitary glands from bodies during autopsies and then used them to formulate injectable HGH. A consequence of using cadavers, though, was that viral diseases could be passed from the donor's body to the patient's body. After several young adults died from a brain virus similar to mad cow disease, scientists developed a synthetic version of HGH. This medication is much easier to mass-produce and is what we use today. Its generic name is somatropin.

Traditional Uses for Human Growth Hormone Treatment

Even though we mostly hear about human growth hormone (HGH) treatment in the context of controversy, it does have legitimate medical uses. Growth hormone deficiency (GHD) is a disorder that can occur in both children and adults.

Children with GHD may grow less than 2 inches (5 centimeters) per year, an indication that there is something amiss with their levels of HGH. The child's blood sugar may be lower than normal, and sexual maturity is delayed. An endocrinologist usually makes a final diagnosis. Some adults can develop GHD after reaching physical maturity, or if their pituitary gland is damaged by something like trauma or radiation treatment. Symptoms include increased body fat, decreased muscle and bone mass, low energy levels and poor sleep. It's important to note that these symptoms must come from a true hormone deficiency and not simply the natural loss of HGH that goes with the aging process. Again, an endocrinologist can run tests to determine if a deficiency is, in fact, the problem.

­HGH is a valuable treatment for growth hormone deficiency. Daily injections improve symptoms in both children and adults with GHD. It's important to note that HGH is only effective if delivered via injection. Stomach acids will break it down if ingested, so an injection delivers it directly to the bloodstream. The injection also allows the greatest concentration of HGH to enter the body. Pills, sprays or powders have little or no effect on the body.

Human growth hormone is also effective in treating muscle weakness related to HIV or AIDS. Its success with healing muscle damage is one of the reasons athletes tend to take injections of HGH, even though it's a banned substance in sports. Many trainers believe it greatly speeds up the healing process for torn muscles and surgery [source: Reynolds].

Next, we'll take a look at the medical study that launched a thousand e-mail marketing ploys.