A synthetic human growth hormone may be able to protect neurons from the detrimental effects of opiate drugs (Svensson AL et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008;105:7304-7308).
Previous studies have shown that opiates may inhibit cell growth and trigger cell death, or apoptosis, leading to impaired cognitive capabilities. Studies also have shown that growth hormone stimulates cell growth, counteracts apoptosis, and improves learning and memory.
In this latest research, scientists from Uppsala University in Sweden extracted hippocampal neurons from fetal mice and grew the cells in culture, adding morphine with or without synthetic human growth hormone. By measuring the number of surviving neurons and assessing biochemical markers of distress, the investigators found that the neurons treated with morphine showed less viability compared with controls, but that the addition of human growth hormone counteracted morphine's effect.