GROWTH HORMONE AND YOUR THYMUS

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have found a way to reactivate T-cell production in adults with HIV. T-cells are part of your immune system. They float around gobbling up bad guys that cause infections. People with HIV have a hard time building up their T-cell count after serious infections and this leads to a downhill spiral of constant infections. T-cells are produced by the thymus gland, but when we reach adulthood, the thymus doesn’t work so well any more. This is why people with embattled immune systems have a hard time rebuilding their T-cell count. The thymus is already slowly pumping out new T-cells (if any) and toss in a disease that actively attacks T-cells and you got real problems.

The researchers at UCSF have been involved in a two year study that shows that the thymus can be stimulated to produce more T-cells with the treatment of growth hormone (GH). HIV patients continued with their usual HIV therapy, but also received GH in the first year of the study. These people showed a marked increase in thymus size and doubled the number of newly made T-cells.

There is still much to be done, but the initial results are very promising. Researchers still don’t know the full effects of GH on the human immune system. GH can also have several side effects that haven’t been fully categorized yet. And the researchers don’t know if the new T-cells produced by GH are actually “good” T-cells. But still, a larger study conducted by the AIDS Clinical Trial Group (ACTG) has had similar results. It’s not a cure, but it does mean a longer, healthier life for those with HIV.