Do you have androgens? The answer is YES, but the amount will differ. Read more to find out what I'm talking about! In this lesson, we'll learn what androgens are, how many different types there are and what they do.
What Are Androgens?
Androgens are hormones responsible for the male features and reproduction. Some are naturally produced in the body, and if the body doesn't make them properly, they can be obtained through prescription medication. Androgens are responsible for sexual development in males and are produced by the testes. Women have smaller amounts of androgens too, and the ovaries produce these.
Types of Androgens
The primary group of androgens is called adrenal androgens, and they function as weak steroids. These include dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S), and androstenedione. DHEA is produced in the adrenal cortex from cholesterol, and androstenedione is produced in the testes, adrenal cortex, and the ovaries (in women, obviously).
The most well known androgen is testosterone, which is responsible for developing the secondary sex characteristics in men. Another well-known androgen is dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The presence of DHT in the developing embryo is what causes the formation of the penis, scrotum, and prostate. During mid-life, DHT is responsible for male balding, prostate growth, and sebaceous gland activity. This is actually a metabolite of testosterone produced in the skin and reproductive tissues.
Androgen Functions & Effects
So, what do androgens actually do in the body? Let's break it down by individual function.
In embryos of mammals, the young can either become male or female, meaning that either testes or ovaries will develop. When certain Y chromosomes are present, indicating a male, the penis, scrotum, and prostate will develop, making the embryo a male. Once the embryo is male, the body will begin producing more androgens to continue male development.
Once puberty hits in males, androgens are partly responsible for the production of sperm and this production is supported throughout the rest of life. However, if androgen levels are too high, then it can actually inhibit the production of sperm and eventually cause infertility.
- Inhibition of fat deposition
Here's a lesser-known function: androgens prevent certain fat cells from actually storing fats. Males usually have less body fat than females and this is one reason why.
Additionally, males usually have more skeletal muscle than females do, and androgens affect this muscle production as well.
Androgens can affect a person's temperament. Too much androgen can result in increased aggression, as well as libido (sex drive). The presence of androgens actually changes the structure of the brain.
Women naturally produce androgens too, just at much lower levels. Artificial use of androgens in women can prevent the uterus from contracting during pregnancy, delaying the onset of labor.
As we've learned, there are quite a few types of androgens, or male hormones that have a variety of functions in the body. Androgens help the male sex organs develop in embryos and prompt sexual maturation once puberty starts. Androgens also affect brain structure, muscle mass, fat deposition, and sperm production in men. While present in smaller concentrations in women, androgens can be artificially administered for certain medical conditions, like delaying labor.
How Androgens Affect Us
- Responsible for testes formation and sperm production
- Reduce fat storage in men
- Promote muscle development
- Can cause increased aggression and sex drive
- Can be used to delay the onset of labor
When you are finished, you should be able to:
- Recall what androgens are and their roles in the human body
- Name some of the more commonly known androgens
- Discuss the ways androgens affect men and women