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Build a Steroid

  • By Claudine Ko
  • Posted 01.01.07
  • NOVA

The synthesis of a chemical compound found in nature is a highly complicated process that can take years of research and experimentation. Beginning with a "starter" chemical like diosgenin, which can be extracted from a Mexican yam, makes a chemist's job easier. Though it may take numerous reactions to get there, chemists can fashion diosgenin into any steroid, from estrogen for menopausal women to anabolic steroids for athletes. In this feature, watch as diosgenin transforms into cortisone, a steroid used to treat arthritis, asthma, and other illnesses.

Launch Interactive Printable Version

Follow the steps a chemist takes to synthesize a disease-fighting drug.

This feature originally appeared on the site for the NOVA program Forgotten Genius.

Credits

Images

(test tubes)
© PflueglFoto
(chemical process)
© NOVA/WGBH Educational Foundation

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