It is essential for the endocrine system to function for proper growth and development of the human body. This is especially important in adolescent children. The master gland, or the pituitary gland, plays an important role by producing the growth hormone, also known as GH. It is a poly-peptide hormone and is protein-based secretion. It is the anterior pituitary gland which synthesizes stores and secretes this hormone.
As the name implies, the growth hormone is responsible for the growth of cells and bones, regeneration of body tissues and also plays an active part in sexual development. This growth hormone is also essential during for puberty and the appearance of secondary sexual characteristics, which may occur over a period of two to three years. At this time the growth hormone will increase its nocturnal secretions. Adolescents have an average secretion of 700μg per day as compared to 400μg per day in adults.
Growth hormone increases the length and thickness of bones by the build up of cartilage at the bone ends. When the child reaches adolescence, the sex hormones replace the cartilage with bones thus stopping the bones from growing further, even though the growth hormone is still secreted by the pituitary gland. The release of this hormone is controlled by GH-releasing hormone, and the secretion is inhibited by GH-inhibiting hormone. The levels of hormone are maintained by the hypothalamus.
If a child has limited secretion of this growth hormone, it will result in growth disorders and reduced height or dwarfism. The cause could be genetic or congenital malformations. Improper secretion of the hormone can also result in delayed sexual maturity, which needs to be treated in clinics. On the other hand, over-production of GH can cause excessive growth or gigantism in adolescents.
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