Androgens – natural or synthetic?

Natural androgens are responsible for the control and development of male traits (primary sexual characteristics, body hair, muscle and adipose tissue). The most famous androgen is testosterone.

The second group of natural androgen-like substances includes secondary plant compounds such as ginsenosides. Since their structure is similar to natural androgens, they are able to bind to androgen receptors and trigger an androgenic effect. Furthermore, these substances may also cause an inhibitory effect and reduce production or enhance androgen metabolism. As such, one refers to these substances as anti-androgens.

The synthetic androgen-like hormones (xenoandrogens) include anabolic steroids such as methyltestosterone. It has a structure similar to testosterone and may induce androgynous effects by binding to the androgen receptor. It is often used in sports such as weight training and boxing to quickly build muscle mass. Xenoandrogens are also used medically. For example, finasteride is used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia.

A variety of synthetically produced androgen-like substances are major constituents in insecticides, plasticizers and drugs. These anthropogenic substances are often structurally analogous to the natural ligands of the androgen receptors and can thereby induce undesirable biological effects in the body.

Androgens in the Environment

The roles of androgens and androgen-like substances and their effects on the environment have long been studied. In particular, they can have disruptive effects at various levels of aquatic ecosystems and can threaten development and reproduction of aquatic organisms at the cellular level (i.e. tumor formation). Possible effects include:

To prevent these outcomes and the entry of androgenic 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

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