Researchers are always looking for new possible treatments for early stages of dementia. Growth Hormone-Releasing Hormone (GHRH), which decreases with age, is one of the latest compounds to catch researchers' attention, and in early tests, has shown tremendous potential for alleviating symptoms.

Growth Hormone-Releasing Hormone

GHRH is a hormone that is naturally produced by the hypothalamus, a portion of the brain that links the nervous system to the endocrine system. Its main purpose is to stimulate the production of growth hormones (GHs), but it also has a variety of other beneficial effects. GHRH levels, which naturally decline as we age, are correlated with mental deterioration.

The Findings

A study, recently published in the Archives of Neurology academic journal, suggested that GHRH improved executive functions in the brain for the elderly, both for those with and without pre-existing cognitive problems.

The study was conducted in a group of 152 people between the ages of 55 and 87. Of those patients, 66 were assessed as having “mild cognitive impairment," a term used to designate patients whose symptoms extend beyond ordinary forgetfulness, but do not yet qualify as early stages of dementia. For a period of five months, these patients were put into one of two groups and injected daily with either a synthesized version of GHRH (test group) or a placebo (control group).

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Psychological tests that determined a patient's capacity for executive functions (mostly attention and concentration skills) were administered at the beginning of the experiment and again at the experiment's end. The group that had been injected with GHRH showed signs of improved levels of concentration and attention, and neither group showed any significant side effects. The GHRH group also reported improvements in mood, and expressed an interest in continuing the treatment beyond the end of the experiment.

A Future Treatment Option?

Looking forward to a possible treatment for preliminary symptoms of dementia, the results of this study are promising. However, there are still many unanswered questions and complications related to GHRH's effectiveness and its efficacy in a broader context.

First, it is unknown whether the effects of the treatment are effective only in short-term bursts or whether the treatment can slow the onset and progression of dementia. If it is only a temporary improvement, the treatment may be cost prohibitive; at $700 a shot, the price would need to be reduced before it could be used regularly by the majority of the population.

Second, though no major side effects were reported in the study, it is unknown whether there are long-term repercussions for opting for the treatment.

The possibility for GHRH being developed into a long-term, effective, and reasonably priced solution is still far away. Testing needs to continue before the treatment is approved, and further research is required to test whether the short-term positive effects are equally beneficial in the long run.