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Definition - What does androstenedione mean?

Androstenedione is an androgen, or a male sex hormone (although also found in women in smaller quantities), produced by the adrenal glands, ovaries, and testes that is converted into two primary sex hormones called estrogen and testosterone. Androstenedione production is particularly noticeable during the puberty stage in boys and girls. It is during this transitional period that the body undergoes physical characteristics associated with both sexes. Estrogen and testosterone development contributes to identifying features including facial and body hair growth, sperm maturation (in boys) and menstrual cycles (in girls), muscularity, voice change, and even stature.

SureHire explains androstenedione

It is believed that the brain triggers the adrenal glands, ovaries, and testes to release and regulate the amount of androstenedione in the body. The systemic process involves the hypothalamus signaling the pituitary gland to secrete adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACH). But, the biochemical effects of ACH in stimulating the adrenal glands to produce androstenedione and other hormones remains questionable.

There are different medical circumstances that can have a direct influence on maintaining androstenedione at normal levels. Men and women can both experience disparate androstenedione hormone production leading to physical abnormalities affecting either sex. Women, for example, may develop unnatural facial and/or body hair growth, cessation of menstrual periods, and ambiguous genitalia. Men can also encounter opposite physiological anomalies including breast development and diminished testes.

Androstenedione testing is often employed to measure estrogen, testosterone, and other vital hormones in the blood. It is also used in examining the adrenal glands for any pathological conditions that can disrupt normal androstenedione secretion from corresponding organs. Although, specialists agree that normal or raised androstenedione levels is not a definitive marker in identifying cancerous growths in or on the adrenal gland cortex, it can help point to suspected conditions. For instance, polycystic ovarian syndrome can reveal normal androstenedione levels following testing. However, testosterone levels tend to be disproportionately greater than estrogen with this pathology leading to stoppage of menstrual cycles (amenorrhea), in turn causing fertility issues in women.

In addition, androstenedione is synthesized as a performance enhancement growth hormone used commonly by athletes. It is considered an illegal substance due to its anabolic steroid similarities to build muscle mass and strength. Athletes are required to submit to androstenedione testing as a form of doping control.

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