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What is Somatostatin?

By C. Martin
Updated May 17, 2024
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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.

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Discussion Comments
By anon956545 — On Jun 14, 2014

Does anyone know what triggers the release of somatostatin? Or is it ubiquitously released but inhibited by cholinergic pathway when digestive processes are needed? Thanks in advance.

By fify — On Jun 28, 2012

I've been keeping fish at home for about ten years now and recently, there is a theory about fish producing a hormone similar to the human GHIH hormone.

The reason why this theory has come about in the first place is because fish that are kept in smaller fish tanks with less water grow much less than fish that are in larger fish tanks with more water. Scientists believe that fish produce their own GHIH hormone which they release into the water. When the hormone builds up, their growth hormone becomes inhibited and they stop growing.

But when fish are in larger masses of water or when the tank water is changed often, they grow bigger possibly because their GHIH hormone is not building up in the water. This is definitely a lot different from the way our growth hormone inhibiting hormone works. But it still serves the same purpose. If we were to lack GHIH, our growth would also go out of hand because of excess growth hormone in our body.

By ysmina — On Jun 27, 2012

This is really interesting. It sounds like the hypothalamus and somatostatin hormone are similar to the pituitary gland and the hormones that this gland produces.

I find it amusing that our body and hormones have a checks-and-balances system in place to make sure that each hormone is not produced more or less than it needs to be.

I have thyroid disorder and so I know about how the pituitary gland produces various hormones to trigger or limit hormone production by the thyroid and several other glands. I guess the hypothalamus does the same with somatostatin hormone to make sure that there isn't too little or too much growth hormone or digestive hormones being produced.

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