Forgotten Genius
Build a Steroid
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Build a Steroid

As Percy Julian knew only too well, 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 readily available "starter" chemical like diosgenin, which can be extracted from the cheap and plentiful Mexican yam, makes a chemist's job easier. This compound already has the basic chemical structure that all major steroids share. Though it may take numerous chemical 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 adrenal hormone cortisone.—Claudine Ko

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© | Created January 2007