BERLIN, GERMANY. Children with cystic fibrosis are often underdeveloped for their age in stature and muscle mass. They also have a significantly lower exercise capacity (peak oxygen uptake) than do healthy children. Researchers at the Free University Berlin now report that treatment with growth hormone can markedly increase height, lean muscle mass, and peak oxygen uptake in children with cystic fibrosis. Their clinical trial involved 10 prepubertal children between the ages of 9.7 and 14.3 years (3 girls and 7 boys). The children were randomly assigned to receive standard therapy (high caloric diet, pancreatic enzymes and vitamins) or standard therapy plus growth hormone injections every night between 7 and 8 pm (0.11 to 0.14 IU per kg body weight). After six months the protocol was reversed so that the children on growth hormone received only the standard therapy and vice versa.
Children on growth hormone increased their height by an average 4.3 cm during the six-month period as
compared to an increase of only 2.3 cm in the control group. Lean body mass increased by 2.9 kg as
compared to no change in the control group. Exercise capacity as measured by peak oxygen uptake
declined by an average 44 mL in the control group, but increased by 214 mL in the hormone group. The
researchers conclude that growth hormone treatment clearly improves exercise capacity through its
combined beneficial effect on muscular, cardiovascular and pulmonary capacity.