The anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are all synthetic derivates of testosterone and are commonly used as sport performance enhancers in athletes. The heart is one of the organs most frequently affected by administration of anabolic steroids. A direct myocardial injury caused by AAS is supposed to determine marked hypertrophy in myocardial cells, extensive regional fibrosis and necrosis. A number of excellent studies, using animal models, were performed to evaluate the cardiac effects of AAS. It is known that exogenous administration induced cardiac hypertrophy in vitro and in vivo, and when combined with exercise, anabolic steroid use has been shown to change exercise-induced physiological cardiac hypertrophy to pathophysiological cardiac hypertrophy. However the molecular mechanisms are still poorly understood. It's described that sudden cardiac death, myocardial infarct; ventricular remodelling and cardiomyopathy do to AAS is related to apoptosis and oxidative stress when associated with exercise. Mechanical stimuli and circulating humoral factors (TNF-α, HSP-70, IL-1β) released by the heart and peripheral organs are responsible.
Testosterone and derivates can work through genomic (activation of specific androgen receptor, interaction with coactivators and co-repressors transcription factors, gene regulation) and non-genomic mechanism (membrane-receptorsecond messenger cascades).
Chronic AAS abuse results in different patterns of pathologic alterations, which depend on type, dose, frequency, and mode of use. The difficulty in interpreting experimental data on animals (mice and rats) lies in the diversity of experiments (the diversity of substances, which show different properties, different mice / rats by sex and age, duration of treatment with AAS, dosages used, type, scope and exercise duration).