Testosterone threshold levels and lean tissue mass targets needed to enhance skeletal muscle strength and function: The HORMA trial

Fred Sattler, Shalender Bhasin, Jiaxiu He, Chih Ping Chou, Carmen Castaneda-Sceppa, Kevin Yarasheski, Ellen Binder, E. Todd Schroeder, Miwa Kawakubo, Anqi Zhang, Ronenn Roubenoff, Stanley Azen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Background: In the HORMA (Hormonal Regulators of Muscle and Metabolism in Aging) Trial, supplemental testosterone and recombinant human growth hormone (rhGH) enhanced lean body mass, appendicular skeletal muscle mass, muscle performance, and physical function, but there was substantial interindividual variability in outcomes. Methods: One hundred and twelve men aged 65-90 years received testosterone gel (5 g/d vs 10 g/d via Leydig cell clamp) and rhGH (0 vs 3 vs 5 μg/kg/d) in a double-masked 2 × 3 factorial design for 16 weeks. Outcomes included lean tissue mass by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, one-repetition maximum strength, Margaria stair power, and activity questionnaires. We used pathway analysis to determine the relationship between changes in hormone levels, muscle mass, strength, and function. Results: Increases in total testosterone of 1046 ng/dL (95% confdence interval = 1040-1051) and 898 ng/dL (95% confdence interval = 892-904) were necessary to achieve median increases in lean body mass of 1.5 kg and appendicular skeletal muscle mass of 0.8 kg, respectively, which were required to significantly enhance one-repetition maximum strength (≥30%). Co-treatment with rhGH lowered the testosterone levels (quantified using liquid chromatographytandem mass spectrometry) necessary to reach these lean mass thresholds. Changes in one-repetition maximum strength were associated with increases in stair climbing power (r =.26, p =.01). Pathway analysis supported the model that changes in testosterone and insulin-like growth factor 1 levels are related to changes in lean body mass needed to enhance muscle performance and physical function. Testosterone's effects on physical activity were mediated through a different pathway because testosterone directly affected Physical Activity Score of the Elderly. Conclusions: To enhance muscle strength and physical function, threshold improvements in lean body mass and appendicular skeletal muscle mass are necessary and these can be achieved by targeting changes in testosterone levels. rhGH augments the effects of testosterone. To maximize functional improvements, the doses of anabolic hormones should be titrated to achieve target blood levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-129
Number of pages8
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Volume66 A
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • Growth hormone
  • Lean body mass
  • Muscle performance
  • Physical function
  • Testosterone


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