Progestogens – natural or synthetic?

The most important natural progestogen is progesterone. It is synthesized from cholesterol in both men and women. In women, the growth of the endometrium is stimulated by the increased production of progesterone. The hormone helps the fertilized egg to nest in the endometrium and mature. In men, progesterone plays a minor role in reproduction and is instead more involved in the immune system, the central and peripheral nervous system and fatty tissue.

Among the progestogens derived from plants, diosgenin is the most well-known. The steroidal sapogenin is converted in the lab to natural bioidentical progesterone and can exert a progestogen receptor-mediated effect.

The synthetic progestogens (progestins) include all artificially produced hormones (i.e. xenohormones) that have a progestogenic action. Synthetic derivatives of progesterone can be found in contraceptives (ex. medroxyprogesterone) and are used in hormone therapy. Progestins are also used as growth-promoting substances.

Artifically produced gestagenic substances are commonly found in fungicides, in paint and coating additives, and flame retardants.

Progestins in the Environment

The role of progestogens and their impact on the environment has not been studied until just recently. The main source of entry of these hormones into the environment comes from the excreta of humans and animals. Synthetic progestogens are mainly introduced from disposal of contraceptives into sewage and water supplies. Furthermore, the use of these hormones in animal breeding has created another gateway for these substances to enter the wastewater and ultimately end up in the ecosystem.

Several studies have shown the following endocrine effects in aquatic organisms:

To prevent these outcomes and the entry of progestogenic substances into the environment, there is a need for simple, high-quality test systems with low detection limits and wide applicability. For these reasons, we have developed our A- YES® test kit.

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M. Sc. Martin JähneLaboratory Manager, Research & Development in Biotechnology