LITTLE ROCK – An investigational drug that stimulates the body to produce more growth hormone has been shown to improve lean muscle mass and physical function in older adults, potentially helping to combat frailty, according to a study at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and 12 other study centers.
Jeanne Wei, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging at UAMS and a physician at the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, is co-author of the study. Other participating centers include Duke University Medical Center, VA Puget Sound Health Care System and the University of Washington School of Medicine.
The Phase II study is the first to show improvements in physical performance among at-risk seniors taking capromorelin, an oral compound developed by Pfizer, which can help the body release more growth hormone. Older adults have greatly reduced production of growth hormone, which regulates metabolism and aids in the building of muscle mass even after adolescent growth has been completed.
“One of our goals at the UAMS Institute on Aging is to help people live active and productive lives for as long as possible. This study is encouraging and has shown that we may be able to slow the process in our bodies that leads to our physical decline with advanced age and possibly improve physical function,” Wei said.
The study, which is online and will be published in the April issue of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, included 395 men and women aged 65-84 with mild functional limitations. The study can be found at http://www.uams.edu/docs/online-epub.pdf.
Study participants were randomized to take a placebo or one of four doses of capromorelin.
All four doses of capromorelin were shown to increase growth hormone production. These findings were sustained during one year of treatment. Researchers also observed a significant increase in lean body mass (1.4 Kg, versus 0.3 Kg for placebo) and improvements in two physical performance tests – tandem walking (heel to toe) and stair climbing.
To put the findings in context, researchers note that the study results can be compared to other studies that looked at the effect of exercise alone. A home-based exercise program among a similar patient population produced a 23 percent to 34 percent improvement in a stair-climbing test after 10 weeks. Participants in the growth hormone study did not exercise, but their stair-climbing ability improved by 7 percent.
Adverse events included fatigue, insomnia and small increases in fasting glucose and HbA1c scores, all within the normal range.
Heidi K. White, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center, is the first author of the report. Study co-authors in addition to Wei are Drs. Charles D. Petrie, William Landschulz, David MacLean, Ann Taylor, Kenneth Lyles, Andrew R. Hoffman, Roberto Salvatori, Mark P. Ettinger, Miriam C. Morey, Marc R. Blackman, and George R. Merriam. The study was funded by Pfizer Global Research and Development.
UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a new 540,000-square-foot hospital, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has 2,652 students and 733 medical residents. Its centers of excellence include the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or uamshealth.com.
UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a northwest Arkansas regional campus; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. It is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,021 students, 789 medical residents and two dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,000 physicians and other professionals who provide care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS regional centers throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.