Hormones play a large role in regulating and deregulating cellular functions in the human body. Cells rely heavily on hormones as, “communication between neighboring cells, and between cells and tissues in distant parts of the body, occurs through the release of chemicals called hormones” (Molnar and Gair). Other major events humans experience are a result of hormone interaction, such as the physical changes induced by puberty.
Not all hormones are the same, however, and their chemical structure indicates their biological function. Fat, or lipid, based hormones feature similar chemical structures; “chemically, these hormones are usually ketones or alcohols; their chemical names will end in ‘-ol’ for alcohols or ‘-one’ for ketones” (Molnar and Gair). Additionally, to easily pass through the cell membrane hormones like testosterone and estrogen are fat-based (Molnar and Gair). Specifically, “[they] can diffuse across a target cell’s plasma membrane, which is also made of lipids” (Wakim and Grewal). This essay writer is especially useful during periods of high hormone levels like puberty.
Hormones are also described by the parent molecule they are derived from, such as steroid hormones. “Steroid hormones are derived from the lipid cholesterol. For example, the reproductive hormones testosterone and the estrogens—which are produced by the gonads (testes and ovaries)—are steroid hormones” (Molnar and Gair). Steroids can be further divided into “progestins, androgens, estrogens, and corticoids” (Zubeldia-Brenner et al.). Due to their non-polar (fatty acid-based) structure all “steroid hormones are insoluble in water” (Molnar and Gair). The adrenal glands produce cortisol, known as the stress hormone, and “aldosterone, which is involved in osmoregulation” (Molnar and Gair). Another steroid, “progesterone is traditionally associated with female reproductive functions and pregnancy” (Zubeldia-Brenner et al.) and regulates pregnancy as it continues. Steroid hormones, as a group, are “synthesized mainly by endocrine glands” (Steimer). They play a valuable role in several processes from the cellular level and organ-specific tissues to overall body function.
Previously, puberty was mentioned as a state where steroid hormones are found in abundance. Both males and females experience heightened estrogen and testosterone, but the reaction is not the same between both sexes. Steroid hormones, specifically testosterone and estrogen, “determine secondary sexual characteristics during development and sexual maturation” (Steimer). Determination is done through specific target cells, “the type of cell on which a hormone has an effect,” and matching “receptor proteins — either on the cell surface or within the cell — that are specific to that hormone” (Wakim and Grewal). The increase in testosterone for adolescent males leads to the “development and maturation of male secondary sexual characteristics” (Hoffman and Ratamess). Subsequently, males will experience symptoms like an “increase in body hair, masculine voice, development of male pattern baldness, libido, sperm production and aggressiveness” (Hoffman and Ratamess). While testosterone is present in the body of a female, they do not experience the same repercussions as they do not have the same receptacles to interact with the hormone.
Furthermore, the isolation of specific steroid hormones has to lead to their usage for increased muscle mass in athletes. Steroid usage has been recorded since the early 1900s, but it “spread quickly through the 1960s and became popular among athletes in a variety of Olympic sports” (Hoffman and Ratamess). These steroid injections produce “elevations in testosterone concentrations stimulate protein synthesis resulting in improvements in muscle size, body mass and strength” (Hoffman and Ratamess). Better performance and strength are ideal in many sports like football and bodybuilding, but additional steroids have consequences on the human body. As testosterone levels increase through artificial injection, the side effects “between the anabolic and androgenic effects” (Hoffman and Ratamess) are exaggerated. Overall breast tissue increase and facial hair loss are some reactions the human body experiences to artificial steroid hormone injections.
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Steroids are naturally occurring hormones that affect the human body down to the cellular level. In summary, “various biosynthetic pathways occurring in endocrine glands such as the gonads, the adrenals and the fetoplacental unit are required to produce and secrete circulating hormones” (Steimer). When the steroid testosterone was isolated for performance use, however, adverse effects were noted to be the opposite seen in male puberty (Hoffman and Ratamess). Their unique biochemical structure allows steroids to move in and out of cells easily, but total-body reception is different as illustrated through the state of puberty in males and females. Steroids provide a unique view as to how one biomolecule interacts with different cells and their influence on human body function.
Hoffman, Jay R, and Nicholas A Ratamess. “Medical issues associated with anabolic steroid use: are they exaggerated?” Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, vol. 5,2 182-93. 1 Jun. 2006.
Molnar, Charles, and Jane Gair. Concepts of Biology – 1st Canadian Edition, BCcampus, 2019. ISBN: 978-1-989623-99-2
Steimer, Th. “Steroid Hormone Metabolism”. Reproductive Health, Geneva Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2019. Retrieved May 20 2020 from
Wakim, Suzanne, and Mandeep Grewal. Human Biology (Wakim and Grewal). LibreTexts-Biology, 2020. Retrieved May 20 2020 from https://bio.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Human_Biology/Book%3A_Human_Biology_(Wakim_and_Grewal)/12%3A_Endocrine_System/12.3%3A_Endocrine_Hormones
Zubeldia-Brenner, L et al. “Developmental and Functional Effects of Steroid Hormones on the Neuroendocrine Axis and Spinal Cord.” Journal of Neuroendocrinology, vol. 28,7 (2016): 10.1111/jne.12401. doi:10.1111/jne.12401