Aging in humans is associated with the decline of functional activities of the GH-insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) axis and the immune system. Because lymphocytes express GH-IGF-I, as well as GHRH and their respective receptors, restoration of this axis in age-advanced individuals, by the administration of GHRH, may enhance immune cell function.
This hypothesis was tested by a single blind randomized placebo-controlled trial of 5 months duration, in which healthy elderly subjects (10 women, 9 men) self-administered sc nightly placebo for 4 weeks, followed by 16 weeks of [norleucine27]GHRH (1-29)-NH2 at a dose of 10 micrograms/kg. Fasting (0800 h-0900 h) blood samples were obtained for immune studies and for measurements of serum concentrations of IGF-I and soluble interleukin (IL)-2 receptor. GH pulsatility was determined in blood samples obtained at 10-min intervals for 12 h (2000 h-0800 h). Freshly isolated peripheral lymphocytes were analyzed by flow cytometric analysis for determination of lymphocyte subsets and monocytes. Mitogen stimulation responses, natural killer cell number and cytotoxicity, basal and stimulated IL-2 secretion from cultured lymphocytes, and IL-2 and IL-2R messenger RNA expression were measured. These studies were conducted at baseline, after placebo, and during GHRH analog administration at 4 and 16 weeks.
Treatment with GHRH analog resulted in a significant increase (107 and 70% in men and women, respectively) in the 12-h integrated GH secretion (P < .05) and serum IGF-I levels (28%) (P < .001) in both men and women by 4 weeks and lasted 12 weeks for IGF-I and 16 weeks for GH. Activation of the immune system occurred in both sexes within 4 weeks. A 30% increase (P < .001) in lymphocytes expressing the transferrin receptor (CD71) and in monocytes (CD14) (P < .05) occurred within 4 weeks. By 16 weeks, there was a significant increase (30%) in B cells (CD20) (P < .01), in cells expressing the T cell receptor alpha/beta (20%) (P < .01), and T cell receptor gamma/delta (40%) (P < .0001). There were no changes in the number of T cells (CD3), T cell subsets (CD4, CD8), or natural killer cell (CD57) over the treatment period. The increase in B cell number was associated with enhanced responsiveness (50%) to the B cell mitogens: pokeweed mitogen (P < .01 or better) and Staphylococus aureus cells (P < .001), and a transient increase at 4 weeks in circulating IgG (P < .0001), IgM, and IgA (P < .001). T cells were functionally activated, as evidenced by a 50% increase in responsiveness to phytohemagglutinin (P < .01 or better), 70% increase in the number of lymphocytes expressing the IL-2 receptor (IL-2R) (CD25) (P < .001), and enhanced IL-2R messenger RNA expression and basal IL-2 secretion (50%) (P < .05) at 16 weeks of treatment. Furthermore, circulating soluble IL-2 receptor rose significantly (15%) (P < .05) within 4 weeks of treatment and remained elevated for the duration of the study.
There were no sex differences in the immune response to GHRH analog and no adverse effects.These results indicate that GHRH analog administration has profound immune-enhancing effects and may be of therapeutic benefit in states of compromised immune function.