The STORY of TESTOSTERONE is fascinating.
The Organon group in the Netherlands were the first to isolate the hormone, identified in a May 1935 paper “On Crystalline Male Hormone from Testicles (Testosterone)” by Karoly Gyula David, E. Dingemanse, J. Freud and Ernst Laqueur. They named the hormone testosterone, from the stems of testicle and sterol, and the suffix of ketone. The structure was worked out by Schering’s Adolf Butenandt (1903–1995).
DID YOU KNOW
Research on the action of testosterone received a brief boost in 1889, when the Harvard professor Charles-Edouard Brown-Séquard (1817–1894), then in Paris, self-injected subcutaneously a “rejuvenating elixir” consisting of an extract of dog and guinea pig testicle. He reported in The Lancet that his vigor and feeling of wellbeing were markedly restored but, predictably, the effects were transient (and likely based on placebo), and Brown-Séquard’s hopes for the compound were dashed. Suffering the ridicule of his colleagues, his work on the mechanisms and effects of androgens in human beings was abandoned by Brown-Séquard and succeeding generations of biochemists for nearly 40 years.
ARTIFICIALLY MADE – CHEMICAL SYNTHESIS
The chemical synthesis of testosterone was achieved in August that year, when Butenandt and G. Hanisch published a paper describing “A Method for Preparing Testosterone from Cholesterol.” Only a week later, the Ciba group in Zurich, Leopold Ruzicka (1887–1976) and A. Wettstein, announced a patent application in a paper “On the Artificial Preparation of the Testicular Hormone Testosterone (Androsten-3-one-17-ol).” These independent partial syntheses of testosterone from a cholesterol base earned both Butenandt and Ruzicka the joint 1939 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Testosterone was identified as 17β-hydroxandrost-4-en-3-one (C19H28O2), a solid polycyclic alcohol with a hydroxyl group at the 17th carbon atom. This also made it obvious that additional modifications on the synthesized testosterone could be made, i.e., esterification and alkylation.
THE GOLDEN AGE OF STEROID CHEMISTRY (1930 – 1950)
The period of the early 1930’s to the 1950’s has been called “The Golden Age of Steroid Chemistry”, and work during this period progressed quickly. Research in this golden age proved that this newly synthesized compound — testosterone — or rather family of compounds (for many derivatives were developed in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s), was a potent multiplier of muscle, strength, and wellbeing.
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