Science Snippet: Human Growth Hormone Injections

A disturbing finding has recently come to light regarding human growth hormone injections. Between 1958 and 1985 around 30,000 people worldwide received such injections. Many of these were children who received the injections to stimulate muscle growth. The hormone extracts were derived from pituitary glands of thousands of cadavers. Now we know that some batches of these extracts were contaminated with “prions,” misfolded and infectious proteins that cause a rare but dreaded neurological disorder called Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD). Globally, 226 individuals who received growth hormone injections decades ago have died of CJD. Recently in Britain, autopsies of eight people, aged 26-51, confirmed the presence of the disease and also revealed that six of the eight brains showed evidence of the “amyloid plaques” characteristic of Alzheimer’s Disease. Since there is already a theory that prions are responsible for AD, the link between CJD and AD is giving neuroscientists something more to ponder. (Nature, Sept. 10, 2015, and other sources)