Could Growth Hormone Improve NAFLD Outcomes?

Over the last few years, the incidence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has increased rapidly. As a result, many researchers are beginning to pay closer attention to this disease – both to learn more about it and to determine how to best treat patients. Right now, there are also no FDA-approved treatment options for those with NAFLD, making this a huge unmet need. An article by Michael Monostra in Healio shared how one study has been exploring subcutaneously administered growth hormone (GH) as a potential therapeutic option for those with NAFLD. 

Data, presented at the ENDO 2022 Annual Conference in June, highlighted a study evaluating GH for those with NAFLD. Altogether, 53 adults – all of whom were considered overweight or obese – enrolled in the study. 41 participants completed the study. 

During the 6-month trial, patients received either daily subcutaneous GH or a placebo. Findings include:

  • Those receiving a placebo saw a 3.8% increase (on average) in liver fat. Alternately, those receiving GH saw a 5.1% reduction in liver fat. Altogether, this means that GH had a net reduction of 8.9% liver fat. 
  • While inflammation increased in those receiving the placebo, both inflammation and fibrosis (scarring) were reduced in those receiving GH. Additionally, those receiving GH saw reduced ALT levels. Heightened ALT often contributes to an NAFLD diagnosis. 
  • GH was safe and well-tolerated in these individuals. No individual experienced any severe reactions to treatment. 

Moving forward, the researchers hope to continue testing GH as a potential therapeutic option for those with NAFLD – and to better understand the underlying mechanisms at work. 

What is Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)?

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an umbrella term – encompassing simple fatty liver and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) – referring to an accumulation of fat in the liver. Unlike in those who drink, NAFLD affects those who drink very little or not at all. Risk factors for developing NAFLD include high cholesterol or blood sugar, being obese, having sleep apnea or metabolic syndrome, being older in age, having high levels of fat in the blood, having type 2 diabetes, or having an underactive thyroid or pituitary gland. Initially, those with NAFLD may not show a lot of symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, symptoms can include:

  • Upper right abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Abdominal ascites (swelling)
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes)
  • Fatigue and general malaise
  • Itchiness
  • Red palms
  • Cirrhosis 
  • Liver failure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Liver cancer
Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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