Several reports support the benefits of growth hormone therapy for children with PWS.
Improved Mobility and Body Composition
A study by Carrel et al found improved mobility and body composition in young children who had started growth hormone therapy as infants or toddlers. A follow-up study compared a group of 6-year-olds who received therapy to another group of children, matched for age, who had not received therapy. Looking at a battery of tests, including height, body fat, “good” and “bad” cholesterol, motor strength, and agility, kids taking growth hormone from a young age came out on top for all measures.
The authors concluded that growth hormone therapy, started in infants, significantly changes the natural history of PWS in a beneficial and clinically meaningful way.
Another study by de Lind van Wijngaarden and colleagues followed 55 children in the Netherlands over four years of growth hormone therapy. The children experienced height increases similar to their peers, and had improvements in body composition, decreases in body fat, and stabilization of lean body mass.
Other benefits noted in the medical literature include improved:
- Respiratory function
- Physical performance
- Levels of resting energy expenditure
- Cholesterol levels
- Bone mineral density
- Head circumference
There is some evidence that growth hormone therapy may improve cognitive outcomes in children with PWS.
A study by Dykens and colleagues showed that children with PWS who received human growth hormone had higher IQ scores and better communication and daily living skills than children who had not received human growth hormone. This study is consistent with other studies that suggest that “earlier is better.” Children who started human growth hormone before 12 months of age had higher IQ scores compared to children who started at 1 to 5 years of age.
Endocrinologist Jennifer Miller, MD, describes the cognitive benefits of growth hormone therapy for people with PWS in this FPWR research conference presentation.
Improved Mental and Motor Development
A study by Donze and colleagues reported in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology Metabolism found that growth hormone treatment also results in improved mental and motor development in very young children. During three years of treatment,mental development in children increased 21.5% and motor development increased 36.3%. Researchers also concluded that the younger children are at the beginning of growth hormone treatment, the greater the improvement in psychosocial development.