Ghrelin as a human natural hormone is involved in fundamental regulatory processes of eating and energy balance. Ghrelin
signals the nutrient availability from the gastrointestinal tract to the central nervous system, up-regulates food intake and lowers energy
expenditure mainly through hypothalamic mediators acting both centrally and peripherally including the gastrointestinal tract (motility,
epithelium), promotes both neuro-endocrine and inflammatory signals to increase skeletal muscle growth and decrease protein breakdown,
and increases lipolysis while body fat utilization is reduced. Ghrelin does more to exert its probably sentinel role around “human
energy”: it influences through mainly extra-hypothalamic actions the hedonic and incentive value of food, mood and anxiety, sleep-wake
regulation, learning and memory, and neurogenesis. Recently numerous ghrelin gene-derived peptides were discovered, demonstrating
the complexity within the ghrelin/ghrelin receptor axis. For clinical applications, not only the natural ghrelin and its slice variants, but
also several modified or artificial molecules acting at ghrelin-associated receptors were and are developed.
Current clinical applications are limited to clinical studies, focusing mainly on cachexia in chronic heart failure, COPD, cancer, endstage-
renal-disease or cystic fibrosis, but also on frailty in elderly, gastrointestinal motility (e.g., gastroparesis, functional dyspepsia,
postoperative ileus), after curative gastrectomy, anorexia nervosa, growth hormone deficient patients, alcohol craving, sleep-wake regulation
(e.g. major depression), or sympathetic nervous activity in obesity. The results of completed, preliminary studies support the clinical
potential of ghrelin, ghrelin gene-derived peptides, and artificial analogues, suggesting that larger clinical trials are demanded to move
ghrelin towards an available and reimbursed pharmaceutical intervention.