As the body grows and develops, it is important that the hormones that regulate this growth are carefully regulated. Found near the base of the brain, the pituitary gland serves as a sort of master control system that creates and releases various hormones guiding development. Therefore, the pituitary gland and growth hormone relationship is essential to proper maturation, and disturbing this close link can have problematic consequences.
Normally, there is a balance, or homeostasis, between the pituitary gland and growth hormone secretion, which allows for consistent conditions in the body. Somatotrophs, which are special cells in this gland, create human growth hormone (HGH), which helps promote a variety of processes in the human body. Liver, pancreas, and immune system cells all are assisted in their normal activities through receiving HGH signals. Bone and muscle growth is also facilitated by this hormone, and increases in its release allow for gaining both height and mass.
Various other developmental and regulatory properties rely on the relationship between the pituitary gland and growth hormone production. During maturation, the musculoskeletal system is not the only component of the body that grows. Internal organs must also increase in size, and HGH release allows for this growth to occur in all organs, with the exception of the brain, as the brain's development is regulated by separate mechanisms. The generation of proteins and fats that are essential to the growth of most tissues in the body are stimulated by this hormone, as well.
Changes in the careful balance of pituitary gland and growth hormone activity can have a variety of ramifications affecting much of the body. Benign tumors affecting this gland can lead to overproduction of HGH, potentially leading to a medical condition called gigantism, where individuals rapidly gain height at a young age. Head size may also increase notably, and weight gain may occur regardless of diet or exercise. Gigantism can trigger the over-secretion of other hormones as well, causing symptoms as varied as mood changes, high blood pressure, intolerance to sugar, and a diminished sex drive.
Certain tumors and infections, as well as damage from medical procedures may disrupt the pituitary gland and growth hormone relationship in the opposite direction. Growth hormone deficiency can lead to difficulties gaining both height and weight, as well as high levels of insulin and cholesterol. Psychological and sexual problems may also result from the subsequent hormone imbalance. Both growth hormone deficiency and gigantism may be treated with hormone therapies, which may assist in restoring homeostasis, in some cases.