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J Urol. 2007 Jun;177(6):2000-5.

Injection, ligation and transplantation: the search for the glandular fountain of youth.

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  • 1Indiana University School of Medicine, 1801 North Senate Boulevard, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA.



During the 19th and early 20th centuries there was great interest in antiaging remedies. This search for the eternal fountain of youth stemmed from the concept of aging as a pathological condition that destroyed the body and mind. In addition, great emphasis was placed on the economic challenge that the elderly presented to society. We examine the history of antiaging therapies from the perfection of cell nutrition to glandular transplants.


A literature review was performed including direct first person sources such as historical documents, letters of correspondence, newspaper articles and journal publications. Historical texts were also consulted for accuracy.


The history of antiaging medicine includes a variety of remedies. E. Metchnikoff advocated a diet rich in lactic acid which he thought would eradicate the body of intestinal putrefaction and decay. Others believed the fountain of youth lay within the endocrine system. C. E. Brown-Sequard linked the decrease in sexual function with the aging body and claimed he could restore a youthful state with the injection of a mixture of animal sex glands. The compound Spermine was subsequently marketed as an injection that promised the effects observed by Brown-Sequard. The early 20th century was marked by a number of surgical attempts at the restoration of youth. L. L. Stanley reported on more than 643 inmates at the San Quentin prison on whom he had performed testicular transplantation. This idea of gland grafting gained international interest and led others such as S. Voronoff to experiment with the transplantation of various animal glands into humans. In addition to gland grafting, vasoligation was advocated by E. Steinach in an effort to direct sperm from the testicles back to the body. The Steinach operation was claimed to restore youth and vigor. Although most physicians directed their attention toward remedies for men, some came to advocate remedies for women including ovarian transplantation and radiation.


The search for the glandular fountain of youth ultimately led to the discovery of testosterone. The modern day interest in plastic surgery, testosterone replacement and growth hormone injection underscores the concept of aging as a disease process. We have yet to determine whether aging represents physiology or pathology. However, it is certain that the search for the fountain of youth will continue.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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