Monday, March 9, 2009

Steroid Hormones

The annual value of bulk steroids produced in the United States increases continually. Steroids used in medicine may be divided into the major classes of corticoids, anabolic androgents, progestational hormones, and estrogenic hormones. Most of those sold and used in medicine today are produced synthetically and are not naturally occurring steroids at all, but chemical modifications of them. There are, for example, at least 16 different so-called corticoids on the market (not counting their various esters and salts), only two of which cortisone and hydrocortisone are identical with those found in nature.


In medicine corticoids are perhaps more widely used than steroids of other types. They are used particularly in rheumatic diseases, in inflammatory conditions of the skin, and in allergic conditions. Other uses are in menstrual irregularities, menopouse, and control of fertility and conception. There are many other indications for the use of steroids in medicine; in renal and cardiovascular diseases, in certain types of cancer, and in various types of stress reaction.


Outline of synthesis from soya, which contains the steroid nucleus:


Crude soya sterols -----> stigmasterol ------> progesterone


Progesterone is converted in high yield to the key for most of these sequences, 11-α-hydroxyprogesterone, by aerobic fermentation with a mold, such as Rhizopus arrhizus. Another fermentation step which enters into the synthesis of Medrol, Alphadrol. Oxylone, and other steroids, which have a double bend between C1 and C2 is dehydrogenation with a Septomyxa species. The folowing chart depicts briefly the various direction in which the key intermediate may be carried.


Other commercial processes for steroid hormone syntheses are based on bile acid and the plant steroid diosgenin from a Mexican yam.


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