Steroid chemistry at a glance

Steroid chemistry at a glance

Daniel Lednicer

Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons 2010 : 152pp : ?29.95 (PB)

ISBN 9780470660843

Reviewed by Barry V L Potter

Book cover - Steroid chemistry at a glance

© John Wiley & Sons

This is another volume in the student-friendly Wiley series. The maxim ’the best place to design a new drug is by modifying an old drug’ makes steroids ideal, but chemists are forgiven for thinking that, even as excellent chiral building blocks, they are now dusty and old-fashioned. Long required to remedy this is a text dealing with classical steroid categorisation and biosynthetic aspects and also incorporating, with occasional mechanistic detail, extensive details of functional group modifications - the inspiration for much classical chemistry. 

Organising this work by structural class, the author generally achieves the right balance here. Classical ’flat’ representation of steroid structure is almost completely retained throughout, when perhaps more illustration of shape and stereochemistry could be instructive for visual rationalisation of functional group interconversions and structure-activity relationships. However, this is a relatively minor quibble. There are no references to deliver more detail on specific examples, but this does not detract from value. Those hunting for particular interconversions will have to jump around for examples, but it is hard to see a better way. There is a supporting special reactions index. 

With frequent, if brief, integration with pharmacological activity, metabolism and clinical steroidal drugs, the result is a text appropriate for undergraduate organic chemists, but one which provides enough inspiration to seek wider biological details elsewhere. Postgraduates and medicinal chemists working specifically in steroid chemistry will gain an appraisal of specific areas before they begin more focused searching. With ample texts already focusing on steroid biology, this book fills a niche from a chemical angle. 

Overall, this timely book is a valuable addition to the stable. It is applicable to both chemistry and pharmacy undergraduate curricula, unlocking part of the wealth of chemistry that is the legacy of the great 20th century steroid chemistry effort. One irritation, however, is the large number of errata reported, relating to incorrect structures, numbering, names and stereochemistry. This diminishes confidence a little and detracts from an otherwise excellent text in an area well placed for reappraisal by a modern chemical audience. 

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