Isolated Growth Hormone Deficiency (GHD) in Childhood and Adolescence: Recent Advances

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The diagnosis of GH deficiency (GHD) in childhood is a multistep process involving clinical history, examination with detailed auxology, biochemical testing, and pituitary imaging, with an increasing contribution from genetics in patients with congenital GHD. Our increasing understanding of the factors involved in the development of somatotropes and the dynamic function of the somatotrope network may explain, at least in part, the development and progression of childhood GHD in different age groups. With respect to the genetic etiology of isolated GHD (IGHD), mutations in known genes such as those encoding GH (GH1), GHRH receptor (GHRHR), or transcription factors involved in pituitary development, are identified in a relatively small percentage of patients suggesting the involvement of other, yet unidentified, factors. Genome-wide association studies point toward an increasing number of genes involved in the control of growth, but their role in the etiology of IGHD remains unknown. Despite the many years of research in the area of GHD, there are still controversies on the etiology, diagnosis, and management of IGHD in children. Recent data suggest that childhood IGHD may have a wider impact on the health and neurodevelopment of children, but it is yet unknown to what extent treatment with recombinant human GH can reverse this effect. Finally, the safety of recombinant human GH is currently the subject of much debate and research, and it is clear that long-term controlled studies are needed to clarify the consequences of childhood IGHD and the long-term safety of its treatment.

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