Hormones are among the key controlling mechanisms of our body. Men as well as women produce natural hormones that function in the form of regulators controlling endless number of chemical reactions that occur inside our bodies. Hormones work to vigorously activate or deactivate a gene with a view to change the supply of components of cells or have an effect on the pace of chemical processes taking place within our bodies. For instance, hormones have the ability to instruct the muscles cells to make particular proteins from the natural resources that are present in our body with a view to augment the muscle tissue mass. In addition, hormones also possess the aptitude to turn on genes present within the skin cells with a view to affect facial hair growth. Hormones also control the supplies of natural resources inside the cells and habitually directly function to accelerate or hold back the paces of particular biochemical reactions in the body.
The functioning of several hormones in our body is mainly controlled by the hypothalamus and pituitary – two vital organs in the brain. Several hormones that are made by the ovaries and adrenal gland in women, and the testes and adrenal gland in men comprise a specific variety of lipid or fat that is known as steroids. The term steroid has been derived from the Greek expression that denotes ‘solid’. The human body possesses the aptitude to make over 600 dissimilar varieties of steroids, counting testosterone, and some of these display activities akin to those of the male sex hormones. Compounds belonging to this family are called androgens. The term androgen has its origin in the Greek terms ‘andro’ denoting male and ‘gen’ meaning to make and together they talk about the male sex hormones.
The Leydig cells found inside the testes are responsible for the normal delivery of the testosterone hormone in adult males. (It may be noted here that young boys and women also possess testosterone in little amounts within their bodies and this is made by their adrenal gland). As the body stores only a small amount of testosterone, it is important to ensure a somewhat continuous production of this male sex hormone.
Testosterone is accountable for the tissue-building (anabolic) as well as the masculinizing (androgenic) actions that occur when one attains puberty and continue till their adulthood. In effect, the remarkable rise in testosterone production in a young male result in their puberty.
Researches undertaken to develop new medications intended to disconnect the tissue-building (anabolic) abilities of testosterone from its masculinizing (androgenic) attributes mainly resulted in the development of anabolic steroids. However, the separation of these two attributes of testosterone is yet to be completely accomplished. As a result, the appropriate name of hormones belonging to this class is anabolic-androgenic steroids. However, commonly these hormones are simply denoted as steroids or anabolic steroids.
Here is a word of caution: you need to be careful not to mistake anabolic steroids to be corticosteroids like cortisone or prednisone. Corticosteroids are basically hormones that are made by the adrenal glands and the biological attributes of these steroids and anabolic steroids are somewhat dissimilar. It may be noted that corticosteroids, such as cortisone and prednisone, are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that are used in medications meant for treating health conditions like muscle sprains and strains as well as asthma. These steroids have an influence on catabolism (metabolism or breaking down of proteins), while the anabolic steroids effect anabolism (tissue protein building).
How steroids were developed
Since the ancient times, people have been drastically searching for sources that would help to augment human strength. Several hundred years before people coined the word ‘hormone’, strength as well as power has been associated with the sex organs of males. In primeval times, people generally consumed the organs of animal, occasionally even the human organs, believing that they had the aptitude to augment potency, courage or libido (sexual craving and activities). Way back in 140 B.C., an Indian therapist suggested that consuming testicle tissue could cure impotency.
Human castration, a practice that perhaps started in Babylon around 2000 B.C., presented with some proof that when a male losses his testicles, he not only loses his fertility, but also his force, power as well as aggressiveness. When castration was performed on animals, it provided comparable evidences. Despite the fact that the ancient Greek philosopher and scientists Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) was totally unaware about the sex hormone secretion, he could still unmistakably explain the consequences of castrating a bird.
Way back in 1889, Charles-Edouard Brown-Sequard, a French physician, undertook a sequence of experimentations wherein he injected dogs as well as himself with extracts prepared from animal testes. The physician had stated that he had experienced augmented general health, strength of the muscle tissues, appetite, mental faculties as well as control over the intestinal tract after he took the injection. However, since the experiments conducted by this French physician were not controlled scientifically, the results of his trials are now said to be caused by placebos.
Nevertheless, the experiments undertaken by Charles-Edouard Brown-Sequard encouraged other scientists to tread in the French physician’s footsteps. Till the early part of the 1930s, in their search for youthfulness as well as vigor, many people began taking injections prepared from the extracts of animal testes. In addition, surgical implants of monkey testicles also become a well-accepted means to achieve vigor and youth among many. After that, the practice of taking such injections and having surgical implants declined and eventually became extinct owing to the newer findings by reputed and sensible scientists who exposed such claims regarding rebuilding vigor and regaining youthfulness.
During the period between the later part of 1700s and early part of the 1800s, majority of the scientists were of the view that our nervous system actually worked as a facilitator for the alterations that took place following castration. Much later, in 1849, Berthold, a German scientist, performed an ordinary, but neat trial with six roosters. Berthold demonstrated that it was possible to prevent the modifications that occurred in the wattles and combs of the roosters after they were castrated, provided their testes that were removed were transferred into the abdominal cavity of these birds. Following this experiment, it became obvious that the vigorous masculinizing matter was actually made in the bloodstream and the central nervous system (CNS) did not have any role in it, whatsoever.
From the 1920s and onwards, there was virtually an explosion in research activities on the endocrine system, hormones, especially on male sex hormones, which resulted in a series of significant observations regarding the manner in which hormones are regulated, the actions of hormones and the specific hormones responsible for particular functions of our body. By the year 1935, scientists were successful in isolating testosterone, identifying its chemical configuration and recognizing the primary nature of this hormone’s anabolic as well as androgenic consequences.
It is Dr. Charles Kochakian who was the next prominent personality in hormonal studies and whom most scientists regard as the ‘father of anabolic steroids’. In the early part of the 1930s, Dr. Kochakian demonstrated that a substance that is akin to a hormone and extracted from male urine encouraged a powerful positive balance in dogs that are castrated. This finding is considered to be vital, as positive nitrogen equilibrium suggests the fusion of a new protein or tissue in dogs as well as humans. This actually led to the establishment of the tissue-building (also known as anabolic) attributes of testosterone. The results of a series of subsequent studies conducted on rats were also similar. In this case also the positive balance of nitrogen was related to an augmentation in fatless body weight.
When the scientists were successful in finding that testosterone encourages the tissue-building process or the procedure involved in the synthesis of protein, it was instantly obvious that it was possible to isolate the tissue-building attributes of testosterone for vital medical applications. All through the 1940s, scientists tried to come to grips with the problem related to isolating testosterone’s tissue-building consequences and not including the masculinizing results of testosterone. All through the World War II, the idea to have a drug that possessed the aptitude to encourage new tissue development was very appealing, as it would be helpful in healing wounds and possibly also aid in saving lives. As a result, this project assumed fresh importance.
While researches were in progress, the issue soon became a matter of concern for Dr. Kochakian, who apprehended that there was a possibility of misusing anabolic steroids. At the same time, he cautioned that an absolute separation of the hormonal attributes of testosterone was not possible. He had written that there was no such substance which can be called a genuine anabolic steroid. As a result, the entire modified steroids continue to keep hold of enough virilizing (also known as masculinizing) actions that make these steroids objectionable when used in the form of remedial agents, particularly when they are used by women and children.
Although studies to discover a preparation of testosterone that would possess the aptitude to encourage protein synthesis or tissue-building activities did not stop, a section of scientists engaged themselves to modify testosterone’s chemical structure. Adding esters, substances formed by combining an alcohol and an acid following the elimination of water, was one particular process employed by scientists to modify the testosterone molecule chemically. A number of such substances called testosterone esters were found to be effective for treating deficiency of protein in humans as well as in horses. Even nearly six decades later, these testosterone esters remain one of the main drugs used by athletes to boost their strength and performances.