USRF Research

Brown-Sequard and 'Rejuvenation' by Testicular Extracts

The impact of Brown-Sequard's 'rejuvenation' was profound. In 1889, when he made public the results of his self-injections, he was a scientist of international stature and a member of the prestigious French Academy of Sciences. Moreover, he was 72 years old, near the end of a distinguished career that included major contributions to neuroscience and adrenal function. He was heir apparent to Claude Bernard's chair of medicine at the College de France.

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According to one authority, within a year of the Paris presentation, more than 12,000 physicians were administering the extract to their patients (Hansen, Bull.Hist.Med., 1999). The dramatic self-experimentation and resulting zealous adoption of 'rejuvenation' by many physicians earned wide reportage in a skeptical lay press, stimulating songs, comic poems, satirical writings, and political caricatures.

A century later, scientists in Australia attempted to repeat the extraction of male hormones from dog testes, following the methods published by Brown-Sequard in his original work. Testosterone concentrations of the extract were measured by radio-immunoassay. The Australians found that each of the Brown-Sequard injections would have contained only about 100 ng of testosterone, whereas daily testosterone secretion in man is about 6 mg. Further, the testis does not store testosterone, but releases the hormone upon synthesis into the systemic circulation; thus extracts from the testis would not be expected to be particularly rich in testosterone. The authors conclude,

"…the placebo effect can be powerful, even in a highly educated physician (Cussons, Med.J.Aust., 2002)."
Hypodermic Syringe, c.1880

Brown-Sequard, C. Note on the effects produced in man by subcutaneous injections of a liqueid obtained from the testicles of animals (Lancet 2: 105, 1889).

 

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