Dr. Richard Walker Discusses Growth Hormone Replacement Therapy for Anti-Aging

Dr. Richard Walker Discusses Growth Hormone Replacement Therapy for Anti-Aging

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TRANSCRIPT: Prior to our getting technology sufficient to synthesize the hormones that were previously extracted from tissues. The medical community faced the problem of species specificity. That means the hormones that we’re taking from animals were not specific for those animals, they’re general hormones. So we could take them as human beings. It didn’t matter what species you were. But growth hormone is different. GH is specific for every single species. So there’s a cow growth hormone, a rat growth hormone, a human GH. You couldn’t extract that from tissues, except human tissues. So GH deficiency in children is not a great problem. Kids can’t grow, because GH, as the name implies, causes you to grow. But it does other stuff too. It’s called somatotropic hormone, meaning that it affects the whole Soma, which is the whole body.
Prior to our development of gene recombinant therapy, kids used to get extracts of human cadaver pituitaries. So that was okay, but it had a very small supply as you can imagine, because there’s not that many cadavers going around. And those people who did die didn’t necessarily donate their pituitary glands, but nonetheless these were available but restricted to that market, to that need. It was recognized that growth hormone deficiency doesn’t occur only in children, but it also occurs in people who grew normally, but then all of a sudden there pituitary stops working. And these people then suffer physical signs of appearing to get older faster than they are. So there was no remedy for those folks because there was only enough GH to go around from cadavers for the kids. And there was another problem. When you take tissues from human beings, the human beings that are infected by certain viruses will be transferred in those extracts. So there was one particularly bad virus calls Jakob Creutzfeldt that affected the mental development and also its fatal disease. So when you got GH from cadavers, you also took a chance that you’re going to get Jakob Creutzfeldt disease. And in any event in the early seventies and into the 80s the gene component therapy was developing, and the FDA created this orphan drug status because the market was basically small. Pharmaceutical companies wouldn’t develop this product because there was a small market, they weren’t going to make a big margin. So they had this orphan drug program and Genentech in the 80s was the stock to have, because they were the first ones to be able to synthesize GH in vitro, which means in Petri dishes they were making it in bacterial cultures. So the supply no longer was limited, you can get unlimited supply and you didn’t have to worry about virus anymore because it was created in sterile conditions.
The people who are GH deficient, got their GH, but then came along Daniel Rudman. He was a scientist in Minnesota, published an article in 1990 in the New England Journal of Medicine, and he reported that when he took recombinant growth hormone, and put it normal old men, 60, 70, that these guys start developing better muscles, their bones became more dense, and they felt better, and it really kicked off a tremendous commercial effort to begin providing anti-aging growth hormone. And so this is the period when you wanted to have Genentech stock, and you wanted to have either a pharmacy that sold growth hormone, or you wanted to create what was then called the … One that still exist, the A4M, society of anti-aging physicians that really their whole therapies were based on growth hormone.
The only problem was, it wasn’t used conservatively, so athletes started using it. There was big doping programs going on around the world and the FDA finally had to step in, because people were making millions of dollars selling it for primarily not uses for which it was intended. The problems where not only that they were making tons of money out of it. The problem was that by taking growth hormone excessively, it carries with it certain problems. And I’ll talk about that a little later. But in any event, the FDA who allowed it to be made in the first place then restricted its use to the people that it was originally provided for, for the children, for the growth hormone deficient adults.
The science progressed into a way we now use it for anti-aging. But as far as growth hormone goes now, it actually, and as well as the hormones that I’ve talked about previously, feedback upon the pituitary, it’s called negative feedback and actually caused the pituitary to become less functional than it would normally. So while getting the benefits of these hormones peripherally in your body, you’re actually centrally shutting down the system that makes the hormones. So as a result of that, which was profoundly seen with growth hormone, everything was called to a halt, except of course the animal ones, which could be used conservatively, and there was no concern about doping with them or abuse.

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