Novel therapies for the treatment of MOF (multiple organ failure) are required. In the present study, we examined the effect of synthetic GHRP-6 (growth hormone-releasing peptide-6) on cell migration and proliferation using rat intestinal epithelial (IEC-6) and human colonic cancer (HT29) cells as in vitro models of injury. In addition, we examined its efficacy when given alone and in combination with the potent protective factor EGF (epidermal growth factor) in an in vivo model of MOF (using two hepatic vessel ischaemia/reperfusion protocols; 45 min of ischaemia and 45 min of reperfusion or 90 min of ischaemia and 120 min of reperfusion). In vitro studies showed that GHRP-6 directly influenced gut epithelial function as its addition caused a 3-fold increase in the rate of cell migration of IEC-6 and HT29 cells (P<0.01), but did not increase proliferation ([3H]thymidine incorporation). In vivo studies showed that, compared with baseline values, ischaemia/reperfusion caused marked hepatic and intestinal damage (histological scoring), neutrophilic infiltration (myeloperoxidase assay; 5-fold increase) and lipid peroxidation (malondialdehyde assay; 4-fold increase). Pre-treatment with GHRP-6 (120 μg/kg of body weight, intraperitoneally) alone truncated these effects by 50–85% (all P<0.05) and an additional benefit was seen when GHRP-6 was used in combination with EGF (1 mg/kg of body weight, intraperitoneally). Lung and renal injuries were also reduced by these pre-treatments. In conclusion, administration of GHRP-6, given alone or in combination with EGF to enhance its effects, may provide a novel simple approach for the prevention and treatment of MOF and other injuries of the gastrointestinal tract. In view of these findings, further studies appear justified.

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