Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Chemistry fascinates.

In bugs, a substance called ecdysone (see molecule of the month, at lower right) regulates larval molts, onset of puparium formation, and metamorphosis. Plants make the same chemical to disrupt all of the above, which punishes insects who would otherwise make a meal of their tasty leaves.

But, in scientific news worthy of some B-grade horror flick, humans have discovered that ecdysone can also function as a muscle-building steroid. Presumably, when we left the bug stage of evolution, we lost the receptor that utilized ecdysone for non-insect bodily purposes but our systems still recognize its potential to stimulate growth.

What if some ethically challenged athlete took a shot of the stuff without realizing that he possessed vestigial ecdysone receptors?

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