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Hormone May Hold Key to Helping Elderly Men Live Longer

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About Insulin-growth Factor 1

Insulin-growth factor 1 (IGF-1) that was once called somatomedin C, is a polypeptide protein hormone similar in molecular structure to insulin. It plays an important role in childhood growth and continues to have anabolic effects in adults.

IGF-1 is one of the most potent natural activators of the AKT signaling pathway, a stimulator of cell growth and multiplication and a potent inhibitor of programmed cell death. Almost every cell in the human body is affected by IGF-1, especially cells in muscle, cartilage, bone, liver, kidney, nerves, skin, and lungs. In addition to the insulin -like effects, IGF-1 can also regulate cell growth and development, especially in nerve cells, as well as cellular DNA.

Factors that are known to cause variation in the levels of growth hormone (GH) and IGF-1 in the circulation include an individuals genetic make-up, the time of day, his or her age, gender, exercise status, stress levels, nutrition level and body mass index (BMI), disease state, race, estrogen status and xenobiotic intake. The later inclusion of xenobiotic intake as a factor influencing GH-IGF status highlights the fact that the GH-IGF axis is a potential target for certain endocrine disrupting chemicals.

IGF-1 has been manufactured recombinantly on a large scale using both yeast and E. coli. Several companies have evaluated IGF-1 in clinical trials for a variety of indications, including growth failure, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS aka "Lou Gehrig's Disease"), severe burn injury and myotonic muscular dystrophy (MMD). Several studies are still ongoing.

Anti Aging Study

In this study, researchers evaluated 376 healthy elderly men between the ages of 73 and 94 years. A serum sample was taken from each subject at the beginning of the study and researchers were contacted about the status of the participants over a period of eight years.

Subjects with the lowest IGF-1 function had a significantly higher mortality rate than subjects with the highest IGF-1 bioactivity. These results were especially significant in individuals who have a high risk to die from cardiovascular complications.

These new findings come as a result of a new form of testing for IGF-bioactivity. Researchers in this study used a new method, a bioassay, to measure the function of IGF-1 in the blood. Compared to commonly used methods to measure IGF-1, the IGF-1 bioassay gives more information about the actual function (bioactivity) of circulating IGF-1 in the body.

“The bioassay allowed us to more clearly see the association between high circulating IGF-1 bioactivity and extended survival,” said Michael Brugts, MD, of the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, The Netherlands and lead author of the study. “Interestingly, we could not find such a relationship when IGF-1 in blood was measured with the more commonly used methods.”

Immunoassays, commonly used previously to determine IGF-1 circulation levels, remove certain proteins that interfere with accurate measurements. Recent studies however have found that these proteins are important modulators of IGF-1 bioactivity. The bioassay used in this study does not disregard or remove this protein, thus enabling researchers to have a more accurate understanding of IGF-1 function.

Determination of IGF-1 function using the bioassay opens the possibility to gather new insights about the functions of IGF-1 in the body, said Brugts.

The article “Low Circulating IGF-1 Bioactivity in Elderly Men is Associated with Increased Mortality,” appeared in the June 2008 issue of JCEM, a publication of The Endocrine Society.

Last modified on Tuesday, 05 June 2012 06:51
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