In human biochemistry, somatostatin is a hormone that causes the production of a number of other hormones to be inhibited or reduced. Another name for somatostatin is growth hormone inhibiting hormone (GHIH), because when it was initially discovered, research showed that GHIH inhibited the production of human growth hormone. Further research showed that GHIH also inhibits the secretion of a number of other hormones in the body.
The somatostatin hormone was first discovered in the hypothalamus, a small almond shaped part of the brain located near the brain stem at the top of the spinal cord. This hormone plays a vital role in controlling and regulating growth and cell division. Human growth hormone is the main hormone that stimulates cell proliferation and growth, and this hormone must be regulated so that growth is controlled.
If the levels of human growth hormone in circulation in the brain and the blood get too high, then special cells called somatostatin neurons detect this. These neurons then trigger the creation of more GHIH in the brain. This then in turn slows down the secretion of human growth hormone.
Somatostatin secretion is also important for the control of the human digestive system. It is secreted by cells in the stomach, the intestine, and the pancreas. This aids in the control of the rate of digestion by ensuring that the amount of digestive hormones is not excessive. These digestive hormones include substances such as gastrin, secretin, enteroglucagon, and vasoactive intestinal peptide, which are all important chemicals in the human digestive system. In addition, GHIH helps to reduce the flow of blood to the intestine and to reduce the muscle contractions of the stomach.
Somatostatin works on a biochemical level, like many other human hormones, by affecting the communication of individual cells. There are five different types of somatostatin receptors that may occur on the surface of a cell. A receptor is a protein that is embedded in the membranous surface of a cell. The hormone molecules bind to these receptors and then activate specific biochemical functions inside the cell.
There are two different forms of natural somatostatin molecules that may be secreted in the human body. One of these is formed from 14 amino acids and the other from 28 amino acids. In addition to these natural variations, this hormone may be produced synthetically and used in treating a variety of diseases such as gastroenteritis and pancreatitis.