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Brief and Straightforward Guide on: HGH TestingThe Human Growth Hormone Test
Due to the wide array of benefits provided by the Human Growth Hormone, it has been used increasingly by professional athletes and sports personalities to enhance their performance and to increase sports stamina. Although the use of the performance enhancer has been banned for quite some time, the test to detect the use of HGH was introduced only a few years ago in the summer Olympics of 2004 organized at Athens, Greece. In recent years, the concept of HGH tests have been evolved systematically by several international and independent experts, belonging to the fields of endocrinology, immuno-assay, and analytical chemistry. As per an estimate, the available tests are the outcome of years of research, with an estimated expense of over US $ 6 million. The initial research for testing for the GH was supported by the International Olympic Committee and the European Union, which was subsequently taken over by the WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) after the product was created. WADA continues to fund scientific research into the testing of HGH as one of its top priorities.
Why test HGH?
Abuse of HGH by professional athletes and sports persons is just one of the many reasons why HGH testing is crucial (as a part of the anti doping policy in sports). However, HGH testing is critical to assess the levels of HGH in children, especially those children who exhibit problems with growth or show abnormal growth patterns. Testing helps identify any form of deficiency of the hormone. These tests are done on children before they reach adolescent age, in order to provide a window of opportunity to rectify the imbalance in time
Status of HGH test
The currently designed HGH test and the procedure is considered to be highly reliable and efficient in detecting the levels of Human Growth Hormone in the blood. However, the use of this test is fairly limited across the globe. Some of the reasons for the same are:
• The current test is based on blood matrix and has limited implementation in select WADA accredited anti doping laboratories world wide.
• The antibodies produced for the current tests are prepared in a research environment and hence, their production is fairly limited and small. Though industrial production of anti bodies is being considered currently, it will take some time for the official approvals and international acceptance. The proto-type of the commercial kit is in place, but it is anticipated that WADA will interact with commercial companies prior to starting their production and distribution on a large sale.
• At present, there are very few positive cases reported. However, HGH is taken by athletes during the off season, for its anabolic effect and thus, they test negative when the tests are conducted during the season. Only if the tests are introduced on no advance notice and out of competition strategy, they will be able to detect doping in athletes.
• As an alternative, if the blood samples of the athletes are frozen and tested later during the seasons, the possibility of identifying positive cases will increase. Researchers believe that HGH is very stable in frozen serum or plasma.
HGH testing procedure
• The level of Human Growth Hormone changes rapidly during the day, hence, it is imperative to collect several blood samples during different days at different times, to actually measure the maximum and minimum level of HGH production.
• The HGH production differs in different people. For adult males, it ranges between 0-5 nanogram per milliliter (ng/ml), while in women in ranges from 0-10 ng/ml. It is highest among children and ranges between 0-16 ng/ml.
• With the different samples collected, an analysis chart is prepared, which attempts to evaluate the maximum and minimum amount of Growth Hormone produced in the body. In athletes who dope, these levels could be higher than usual, while lower levels of HGH in children may result in conditions like - growth retardation and dwarfism.
• A hormone suppression test is an alternative to access the level of Growth Hormone, especially, among children. This is based on the philosophy that hyperglycemia (i.e. high level of glucose in the blood) is associated with an increase in the level of HGH production. In this test, the sugar levels of the patient are tested along with HGH levels. While fasting (i.e. with low levels of sugar), HGH level in the blood is also low, while after consumption of huge amount of sugar, the HGH level rise. This is also used to assess if the child suffers from any hormone deficiency.
Alternative to blood test for HGH
• Though the international community is largely in favor of the use of the blood-based tests, which are considered most reliable, there is an alternative urine test to detect HGH levels.
• The advantage of urine testing is that it is cheaper, less invasive and has fewer complications, compared to the blood testing option. A recent and promising HGH urine test is being developed at the George Mason University, which uses nanotechnology that binds and amplifies HGH in urine. This technology will allow detection of urinary levels of HGH up to a two-week range ( unlike the present blood screening which can detect HGH taken within 24 to 48 hours prior to the test).
• Unfortunately, the HGH level in the urine is very small (less than 1 % of the level in blood) making it difficult to detect the hormone. Despite the fact that, substantial amount of research is underway, to develop highly sensitive tests to detect the level of HGH in the blood, the chances of its success appear to be quite remote. Furthermore, WADA testing technique is not perfect, but it is highly sensitive and can test HGH to parts per billion.