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J Bryce Ortiz Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Department of Child Health, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix, Arizona, USA

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Sebastian Tellez Arizona State University, School of Life Sciences, Tempe, Arizona, USA

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Giri Rampal Department of Child Health, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom

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Grant S Mannino Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA

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Nicole Couillard Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA

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Matias Mendez Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA

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Tabitha R F Green Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA

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Sean M Murphy Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA

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Rachel K Rowe Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA

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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can damage the hypothalamus and cause improper activation of the growth hormone (GH) axis, leading to growth hormone deficiency (GHD). GHD is one of the most prevalent endocrinopathies following TBI in adults; however, the extent to which GHD affects juveniles remains understudied. We used postnatal day 17 rats (n = 83), which model the late infantile/toddler period, and assessed body weights, GH levels, and number of hypothalamic somatostatin neurons at acute (1, 7 days post injury (DPI)) and chronic (18, 25, 43 DPI) time points. We hypothesized that diffuse TBI would alter circulating GH levels because of damage to the hypothalamus, specifically somatostatin neurons. Data were analyzed with generalized linear and mixed effects models with fixed effects interactions between the injury and time. Despite similar growth rates over time with age, TBI rats weighed less than shams at 18 DPI (postnatal day 35; P = 0.03, standardized effect size [d] = 1.24), which is around the onset of puberty. Compared to shams, GH levels were lower in the TBI group during the acute period (P = 0.196; d = 12.3) but higher in the TBI group during the chronic period (P = 0.10; d = 52.1). Although not statistically significant, TBI-induced differences in GH had large standardized effect sizes, indicating biological significance. The mean number of hypothalamic somatostatin neurons (an inhibitor of GH) positively predicted GH levels in the hypothalamus but did not predict GH levels in the somatosensory cortex. Understanding TBI-induced alterations in the GH axis may identify therapeutic targets to improve the quality of life of pediatric survivors of TBI.

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