Understanding Androgens To Understand Androgenetic Alopecia

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An introduction to Androgens

What is "Androgen"?

Androgen can be called the root cause of Androgenetic Alopecia or male pattern baldness. "Androgen" (a.k.a. androgenic hormones or steroids) is a generic term referring to any natural or synthetic compound (usually a steroid hormone) stimulating or controlling the development and maintenance of masculine characteristics in vertebrates by binding to Androgen Receptors. It includes the activity of the accessory male sex organs and development of male secondary sex characteristics. They can also be converted to estrogens, the primary female sex hormones by certain enzymes.

Androgen Receptors
Androgen receptors are steroid receptors that specifically bind testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. Binding to receptors activates the receptor and the cells respond accordingly.
Anabolic Steroids
Androgens are also the original anabolic steroids (a.k.a. anabolic androgenic steroids). But what is meant by anabolic steroids?

Anabolic steroids are a class of natural and synthetic steroid hormones promoting cell growth and division. Thus, they result in growth of several tissues, especially muscle and bone. Different anabolic androgenic steroids have different combinations of androgenic and anabolic properties.

Anabolism is the metabolic process of building larger molecules from smaller ones.
Types of Androgens and their Functions
The various types of androgens are as follows -

Testosterone - It is the primary and most well-known androgen. A steroid hormone, testosterone is primarily secreted in the testes of males and the ovaries of females. However, adrenal glands also secrete small amounts of testosterone. It is the principal male sex hormone and it is an anabolic steroid. It is crucial for the health and well-being of both males and females.

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)- It is a steroid hormone produced from cholesterol in the adrenal cortex. It is also known as dehydroisoandrosterone or dehydroandrosterone.

Androstenedione (Andro) - This androgenic steroid is produced by the testes, adrenal cortex and ovaries. While it is metabolically converted to testosterone and other androgens, it is also the parent structure of estrone.

Androstenediol - It is the steroid metabolite thought to act as the main regulator of gonadotropin secretion.

Androsterone - It is a chemical by-product created during the breakdown of androgens. It is also derived from progesterone.

Androsterone is also responsible for exerting minor masculinising effects.

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) - It is a metabolite (bio-chemical modification) of testosterone. It is actually a more potent androgen that binds more strongly to androgen receptors.
Problems Arising from Human Insensitivity to Androgen
Reduced ability to respond to androgens can lead to several problems. These problems include the following -
  • Infertility.
  • Several forms of intersex conditions. This refers to having genitalia and/or secondary sex characteristics neither exclusively male nor female. Or, it may combine the features of both the male and female sexes.