I can't seem to find any research articles stating how testosterone is made synthetically in a lab. I am looking for research papers on how anabolic agents (synthetic testosterone) are made in a lab?

  • $\begingroup$ Maybe a quick “don’t try this at home” or “don’t use your own product” disclaimer would be nice $\endgroup$
    – user98623
    Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ Interesting is, the question is not about pharmaceutical production and hormonal treatment, but it is about lab production of anabolic agents. You do not ask about a doping cookbook, do you? $\endgroup$
    – Poutnik
    Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 19:55

1 Answer 1


From Wikipedia:

The chemical synthesis of testosterone from cholesterol was achieved in August [1935] by Butenandt and Hanisch. Only a week later, the Ciba group in Zurich, Leopold Ruzicka (1887–1976) and A. Wettstein, published their synthesis of testosterone. These independent partial syntheses of testosterone from a cholesterol base earned both Butenandt and Ruzicka the joint 1939 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Both original papers are in German. I don't know if these have industrial relevance nowadays. Might be better to ask on Chemistry SE that.

There's a somewhat fully 2009 article on Pfizer's "2nd/green generation" process. They use androstenedione as the immediate precursor. (The "green" claim seems mainly because of no longer producing heavy metal byproducts.) As they mention both "bioprocess" and the Kalamazoo, Michigan plant in there, which was acquired from Upjohn way back, the androstenedione might be derived from plant sterols (which was Upjohn's big innovation in the 70's), but that's not made explicit in that Pfizer article. You can read about the bioprocess route e.g. in a recent review. It's called a bioprocess because conversion from plant sterols is rather inefficient done by chemical means, so microbes are used. There's another paper/review which talks about that:

For example, the steroid hormone testosterone (TS) is chemically synthesized from the steroidal intermediate 4-androstene-3,17-dione (AD), which is previously obtained from natural sterols by microbial biotransformation (Fernández-Cabezón et al., 2017a).

For details on the chemical conversion from AD, you could probably look at Ercoli and de Ruggieri (1953). More recent papers (like Fernández-Cabezón et al.) propose to use biosynthesis in this step as well. Pfizer's article only speaks of a "proprietary intermediate" being used in this step.

Note that due to extremely short half-life of testosterone in the blood (like 10 mins), medical products use esterified testosterone.

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    $\begingroup$ A google search on "synthesis of testosterone" yields this pdf document which describes the steps for making testosterone from cholesterol without experimental conditions (did you want conditions?) lkouniv.ac.in/site/writereaddata/siteContent/… $\endgroup$
    – Waylander
    Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 20:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Waylander: why are you asking me? I didn't ask the Q. I tried to answer mostly with how it's made in industry nowadays because the Q was posted to Medical Sciences when I answered it. (My answer was migrated together with the Q.) $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 20:27

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