Discovery of testosterone
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Jácome, A. (2019). Discovery of testosterone. Revista Colombiana De Endocrinología, Diabetes &Amp; Metabolismo, 6(3), 231–235.


The effects of castration in animals and human eunuchs were known since antiquity. It took milleniae to understand there was a substance whose decrease or frank absence also generated such ageing effects. Man started to look for the fountain of youth and viril performance. Was it found by spaniard conqueror Ponce de Leon in waters of St.Augustine, Florida? Certainly not. More rational were testicular organotherapy as “replacement therapy” and a century ago, testicular “rejuvenation” transplants. Those therapies were fashionable although innocuous (short placebo effect), and rather a matter of quackery. Discovery of steroids in the so-called “heroic age of reproductive endocrinology” when tons of animal organs and thousands of liters of urine were used only to obtain a few miligramas of active substance, androgens, estrogens, progestagens, glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids were found.

This narrative review paper aims to describe historical facts that led to discovery of steroids, specially testosterone. These were achieved during the “golden age of reproductive endocrinology”, so called because tons of animal organs or thousands of urine liters were used in order to obtain a few milligrams of hormone; compouds with the steroid ring were classified as androgens, estrogens, progestagens, glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids, according to their tissue effects.

Ernst Laqueur (Amsterdam) isolated testosterone in 1935, Adolf Butenandt (Gdansk) and Leopold Ruzicka (Zürich) synthetized it shortly therefore. This was done in the beginning of World War II, thanks to big pharma support; in the work, Nazi scientists participated who later on were allowed to continue their work. Would the virility hormone have a positive effect on soldiers combativity? Nazis and Soviets so believed. The latter also gave it to their athletes, looking for a “propaganda” effect.

Difficulty in obtaining stable hormonal levels led researchers for testosterone salts to be administered by different routes. But besides true cases of male hypogonadism other indications were not clear. Anabolic steroids are metabolites that were fashionable for a couple of decades although –except for AIDS cases– are no longer prescribed. They are scheduled substances for athletes. No agreement has been reached in regard to some indications in senior adults although its seems to be that testosterone administration does not increase prostate cancer risk. Therapeutic agents have been improved in recent years to obtain physiologic and permanent levels in hypogonadic patients.
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