Growth hormone (GH), brain development and neural stem cells.
ABSTRACT A range of observations support a role for GH in development and function of the brain. These include altered brain structure in GH receptor null mice, and impaired cognition in GH deficient rodents and in a subgroup of GH receptor defective patients (Laron dwarfs). GH has been shown to alter neurogenesis, myelin synthesis and dendritic branching, and both the GH receptor and GH itself are expressed widely in the brain. We have found a population of neural stem cells which are activated by GH infusion, and which give rise to neurons in mice. These stem cells are activated by voluntary exercise in a GH-dependent manner. Given the findings that local synthesis of GH occurs in the hippocampus in response to a memory task, and that GH replacement improves memory and cognition in rodents and humans, these new observations warrant a reappraisal of the clinical importance of GH replacement in GH deficient states.