In vitro androgen bioassays as a detection method for designer androgens

Sensors (Basel). 2013 Feb 6;13(2):2148-63. doi: 10.3390/s130202148.


Androgens are the class of sex steroids responsible for male sexual characteristics, including increased muscle mass and decreased fat mass. Illicit use of androgen doping can be an attractive option for those looking to enhance sporting performance and/or physical appearance. The use of in vitro bioassays to detect androgens, especially designer or proandrogens, is becoming increasingly important in combating androgen doping associated with nutritional supplements. The nutritional sports supplement market has grown rapidly throughout the past decade. Many of these supplements contain androgens, designer androgens or proandrogens. Many designer or proandrogens cannot be detected by the standard highly-sensitive screening methods such as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry because their chemical structure is unknown. However, in vitro androgen bioassays can detect designer and proandrogens as these assays are not reliant on knowing the chemical structure but instead are based on androgen receptor activation. For these reasons, it may be advantageous to use routine androgen bioassay screening of nutraceutical samples to help curb the increasing problem of androgen doping.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / analysis*
  • Animals
  • Biological Assay / methods*
  • Designer Drugs / analysis*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Androgen / metabolism


  • Androgens
  • Designer Drugs
  • Receptors, Androgen