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An interview with Jason S. Thomas, research chemist
Page 3
By Antoine du Rocher in New York, 8 August 2008

HGH, Medicine and Controlled Evolution .

Culturekiosque: What about Human Growth Hormone (HGH)?

Jason Thomas: Growth hormone is growth hormone is growth hormone; which is to say that there is no such thing as designer growth hormone. As I mentioned, I am a chemist with a specialization in biochemstry. Growth hormone as well as Insulin are more the domain of endocrinologists. Both are very complex in function like testosterone and other anabolic variants of testosterone. Anabolic steroid design is about chemical reactions and that is what I do for a living. With human growth hormone or insulin there is no design on any of those at this point in time. I can therefore discuss the effects, but in order to lift the veil, I would need the collaboration of colleagues in endocrinology.

CK: In other words, growth hormone and insulin are not a simple matter of a molecular theme and variations?

JT: Right. It's a rabbit hole of never ending endocrinological pathways.

CK: Still, given that growth hormone is very much the trend as seen by the proliferation of anti-aging clinics across the United States, and insulin the rage with elite and competitive bodybuilders, it would be informative to know some of the effects that have made both so appealing to different segments of the population.

JT: I will limit my remarks to men, who are the biggest users of human growth hormone at the moment. If used by itself, moderate muscle gains, strengthening of the bones and joints, very noticeable and obvious fat loss. These are the positive aspects. The short term negative side effects are perhaps less dangerous than anabolic steroids, but they are more spectacular. The biggest is facial bone growth: cheek bones and jaw bones. In addition, the famous " 'roid gut" that has become prevalent in recent years in the elite bodybuilding community, can be attributed to intestinal diameter growth which is a direct result of growth hormone. The grainy, thin-skinned and almost transparent quality of muscle that you see on many "Chelsea boys" (gays in New York's Chelsea district) is an indication of growth hormone use. Most of them have 'roid guts too. Hell, all you have to do is stand outside the club where I work on weekends in the heart of Chelsea to see what I am talking about. Every guy that walks by is buff. But it's all little legs, no ass and big upper bodies: big chests, big arms. They don't care about the rest. They just want the upper body to look good. I'm assuming they're gay because they are walking shirtless in pairs, sometimes hand in hand and many are headed to The Eagle, a big leather night club around the corner. You know these guys are not competing or serious bodybuilders, but they want to look good. They're happy.

CK: For clarification can you give us one last example of a designer anabolic steroid which was developed for medical reasons and a more recent designer steroid that was developed and marketed strictly with the elite sport community in mind?

JT: Oxandrolone (Anavar) was developed for children with slow development. The design is such that it is orally active, less liver toxic, mildly to moderately anabolic and potent enough to trigger puberty without side effects related to conversion to estrogen. On the other hand, Esiclene was strictly designed for bodybuilders and is an excellent example of the designer steroid in the extreme. It is an anabolic, androgenic and it is purposefully inflammatory. It was designed in such a way as to place a hydroxyl (alcohol) group in the path of the steroid binding to the receptor which would convert it to estrogen. In addition, they placed a formyl (formaldehyde) group on the steroid to irritate tissue and induce swelling in the region of injection. The professional bodybuilder Flex Wheeler made public his almost lethal reaction to this steroid.

Steroids are quickly becoming mainstream and, although medicine can ignore a minority subculture, it cannot ignore the average person.

CK: Current research indicates an increasing mainstream interest in hormonal therapies, notably by middle-aged, professional men.

JT: Look at the ads on TV for health spas, diet plans, diet pills, viagra and libido enhancement drugs. That's what Americans want today: healthy body, healthy cardio-vascular system and a healthy sex drive. So, what can testosterone do for the average American? It gives them everything they want: better body, less body fat and healthy sex drive. Since birth control compounds, designer steroids for women, are now administered through transdermal technology, I think that testosterone, properly dosed, will soon be available for men. Accident victims who require immobilization can benefit from steroids to counteract muscle wasting. The first medical applications are for coma or paralysis.

CK: The $18-billion dollar dietary supplement industry in America includes off-the-shelf prohormones. Any comments?

JT: Prohormones are a joke. Prohormones are a slightly altered form of testosterone or other true designer steroids; i.e, one or more bonds are changed. The manufacturers suggest that, once inside the body, these compounds will convert to active testosterone. Although, theoretically possible, the human body doesn't follow this agenda. In fact, far less than one percent of the ingested dose actually converts to testosterone. And this number is for the "best" prohormones such as the one Mark McGuire was using. Scientists are skeptical that such a low increase in serum testosterone levels would cause any increase in muscle size or performance. Bottom line is they don't work. However, I am speaking about the anabolic properties. The reason some prohormones are being banned (with others soon to follow) is because they still have negative side effects This is because the compound is similar enough in chemical structure to testosterone that they bind to both the androgen and aromatase receptors causing the side effects typical of testosterone: acne, balding, aggression, bloating, etc. Prohormones essentially give you all the negative effects with none of the anabolic effects - all for a price comparable to that of true steroids. The reporter who broke the story should have looked deeper inside McGuire's locker.

CK : If anabolic steroids were legal and without the side effects you discussed earlier, would you use them?

JT: No. Bodybuilding for me is not only about the end result, it's about the journey along the way. Natural bodybuilding is one of the most difficult sports in the world. It becomes so much more of a challenge than bodybuilding with anabolic aids such as steroids, growth hormone, and insulin because much more attention must be payed to all aspects of the sport: nutrition, training, recovery and biochemical knowledge. I try to maximize these aspects to compete hand in hand with my peers who use anabolic aids. If it was easy to get big, I am almost sure that I would lose interest in the sport. It's like when men talk about dating, referring to the "chase" that is so exciting. Chasing the hard-to-attain, perfect body is what keeps me going.

CK: That's very noble, but many athletes, including competitive bodybuilders, might argue that there is considerable pressure from competition, economics and fans that require bigger bodies or record- breaking performances in much the same way that audiences required bigger and bloodier gladiatorial combat in Ancient Rome.

JT: Most bodybuilders fall off the natural bandwagon when their egos take over. They can't stand to be compared to a steroid user and appear smaller. This is something that bothered me when I was say, fifteen years old, but I've grown older and wiser. Others fall off the natural bandwagon when they begin to think that they have a chance at a professional bodybuilding career. Because 99.9% of national level and professional bodybuilders use anabolic aids, those who aspire understand that to compete on a level playing field, they must "switch to the Dark Side." The use of steroids to achieve money and fame is by no means novel to the bodybuilding community. Just look at popular sports such as baseball, football and basketball: fans want to see longer homeruns, more gruesome tackles, and more high-flying dunks. Team owners, managers, and coaches want what the fans desire, because more fans mean more money. Athletes who go beyond the norm and give the fans something spectacular share a piece of this wealth. And every high school, college, and professional athlete in the country is fully aware of this. Most are willing to do anything necessary to get an edge over the next athelete, and anabolic steroids provide that edge.

Brian Moss: Bodybuilding, USA
© Brian Moss | All Rights Reserved
Photo courtesy of Brian Moss

CK: Without encouraging the use of anabolic steroids, what advice would you give somebody that asked you about anabolic steroids?

JT: It's a question that I receive on a daily basis. I know that once the person asks me about steroids that it's a done deal; they have most likely purchased the gear and could have already started the cycle. Therefore, I provide them with prophylactic advice: consult your physician so that he or she can test your testosterone levels. It turns out that many people often have high estrogen levels and physicians will prescribe testosterone as therapy. This is how I bait them into seing a physician. Many people associate using steroids with drug use, but if they are prescribed by a physician then it removes the negative connotations from the word. There is also the possibility that medical insurance could cover the steroid prescription in the case that a person's estrogen levels are high, since it is in that case "therapy."

CK: What about bodybuilding and medicine?

JT: Bodybuilding needs medicine and medicine needs bodybuilding. It's really amazing that the two are currently so disconnected. The only time a physician might even come in contact with a bodybuilder is during a bodybuilding show when an elite athlete is rushed to the emergency room for extreme dehydration. Medicine and bodybuilding have more things in common than most people might suspect: steroids and other anabolic drugs, research and the desire for better drugs. In medicine, steroid therapy is widespread - from birth control to muscle wasting in AIDS patients to growth defects in children to anti-tumor agents. Physicians and Ph.D.s involved in clinical research and trials with steroids and steroid analogs really need to open their eyes and put the mice and rabbits back in their cages. There are countless numbers of speaking, intelligent and willing test subjects walking around in gyms and on bodybuilding stages all over the country. The amount of data that could be collected from the bodybuilding community would be astronomical. Not to mention the empirical data that has been collected thus far by amateur and professional bodybuilders and trainers. Just go to any chat room on a bodybuilding website and there are some experts on the subject of steroid stacking, side effects, doses, etc. My point isn't to say that professional scientists would use this empirical data; it is to say that the data is there and, under professional guidelines, the data that could be collected would be much more potent towards medical research than that performed on lab animals.

So what does the bodybuilding community get in return? Physicians could monitor their use of drugs and provide them with much needed supervision. At the present time, most bodybuilders rely on word of mouth when it comes to their use of anabolic drugs. Many don't realize that they are over their body's limit until it is too late. I know someone who had a heart attack in his early thirties from abuse of steroids and insulin. Physicians could make a drastic difference by constantly monitoring vitals and drug levels in the blood. I feel that bodybuilding and medicine might be forced to merge very soon as anabolic drug use and abuse is no longer limited to the bodybuilding culture and professional athletes. Steroids have crept there way into everyone's reality. What I mean is that so many people are affected or will be affected in some way by steroids. Many people might take exception to this opinion, but what if your son starts using steroids to make the high school football team? Or your friend at the office is thinking about going to one of the clinics to receive testosterone and HGH? Steroids are quickly becoming mainstream and, although medicine can ignore a minority subculture, it cannot ignore the average person. I think that bridging the gap between bodybuilding (and other elite atheletes) and medicine is important and helpful for all involved and I hope that my future research might head in that direction. It's not that I want to try and synthesize the next testosterone to try and sell to the bodybuilding community - it's that I want to take my love of bodybuilding and consequential interest in steroid design and focus on steroid analogs that would be medically beneficial. I feel that bodybuilding has given me a unique perspective and knowledge base that few synthetic chemists have.

CK: What's next?

JT: Dynamic Combinatorial Chemistry (DCC). It's controlled evolution in the laboratory. Evolution is a process of random mutations that provides physical changes. If that physical change helps the organism adapt, and thus increases the chance that its genes are passed on to the next generation, the mutation too is passed on. If the mutation decreases the organism's chance for survival and procreation, then it is essentially deleted from the gene pool. This is how evolution works, nature provides stimuli that create an adaptive need in organisms, and random mutations, eventually, provide a solution. But, you must understand, this process is completely random and time is not a concern. Testosterone is the culmination of innumerable mutations in response to mammals' needs: muscle growth, changes during puberty, aggression, etc. Until now, human attempts to change testosterone's anabolic, androgenic or estrogen-related properties have been relatively slow due to the fact that they have been addressed one at a time. A steroid designer imagines a certain compound, synthesizes it, and then tests it for effectiveness. This can take a matter of weeks or years. However, this process is about to undergo a drastic change. Dynamic Combinatorial Chemistry is a complicated process, so instead of explaining how it works I will simply provide the bottom line. Once steroid chemists have invested the necessary time into the chemical strategy for DCC, hundreds of novel steroid compounds can be synthesized and tested within a matter of minutes. The entire process is orchestrated by computers. The pharmaceutical sector has recently employed this process, and steroid manufactures will soon follow suit, if they haven't already.

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