Growth hormone (GH) is an underappreciated but important regulator of T cell development that can reverse age-related declines in thymopoiesis in rodents. Here, we report findings of a prospective randomized study examining the effects of GH on the immune system of HIV-1-infected adults. GH treatment was associated with increased thymic mass. In addition, GH treatment enhanced thymic output, as measured by both the frequency of T cell receptor rearrangement excision circles in circulating T cells and the numbers of circulating naive and total CD4+ T cells. These findings provide compelling evidence that GH induces de novo T cell production and may, accordingly, facilitate CD4+ T cell recovery in HIV-1-infected adults. Further, these randomized, prospective data have shown that thymic involution can be pharmacologically reversed in humans, suggesting that immune-based therapies could be used to enhance thymopoiesis in immunodeficient individuals.
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