Biker's warning! Erythropoietin hits blood vessels to raise blood pressure in the brain

December 10, 2011, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Erythropoietin or EPO might be considered a "performance enhancing" substance for athletes, but new research published online in The FASEB Journal shows that these enhancements come at a high cost--increased risk of vascular problems in the brain. According to the study, short- or long-term use of EPO raises blood pressure by constricting arteries, which reduces the flow of blood to the brain. This finding also contradicts earlier evidence suggesting that EPO may be a viable early treatment for stroke victims.

"The new findings of this study urge to scrutinize present indications for EPO, and so help to better delineate positive versus adversary health effects of EPO for each patient," said Peter Rasmussen, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Zurich Center for Integrative Human Physiology at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. "Future research should aim at developing an EPO-based agent for treatment that does not have a negative effect on the blood vessels of the brain."

To make this discovery, Rasmussen and colleagues evaluated the effects of acute high doses of EPO for three days and chronic low doses of EPO for 13 weeks in two groups of healthy males. Responsiveness of brain vessels during rest and during bike-riding exercise, with and without hypoxia, was examined. Blood vessels were also analyzed using ultrasound measurements and by measuring how much oxygen reached the brain. They found that prolonged EPO administration increased hematocrit, while acute administration did not. They also found that both groups had increases in blood vessel constriction and higher blood pressure.

"EPO is used by doctors to increase in sick people who can't make enough of them: it's called honest medicine. When EPO is used by healthy bikers and runners to boost their performance, it's called cheating. Now we know that folks who use EPO covertly are cheating not only the time-clock, but themselves," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The . "Not only is EPO likely unsafe in healthy athletes, but there are many other ways to build up stamina without drugs."

Explore further: EPO doping helps combat cerebral malaria

More information: Peter Rasmussen, Yu-Sok Kim, Rikke Krogh-Madsen, Carsten Lundby, Niels V. Olsen, Niels H. Secher, and Johannes J. van Lieshout. Both acute and prolonged administration of EPO reduce cerebral and systemic vascular conductance in humans. FASEB J. December 9, 2011; doi:10.1096/fj.11-193508

Related Stories

EPO doping helps combat cerebral malaria

April 21, 2011
Almost 3.3 billion people, half of the world's population, risk being infected with malaria. Despite having effective means against malaria, the WHO reports 250 million cases of malaria each year and more than 700,000 related ...

Hormone reduces risk of heart failure from chemotherapy

August 4, 2011
Recent studies have shown that the heart contains cardiac stem cells that can contribute to regeneration and healing during disease and aging. However, little is known about the molecules and pathways that regulate these ...

Recommended for you

Researchers illustrate how muscle growth inhibitor is activated, could aid in treating ALS

January 19, 2018
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine are part of an international team that has identified how the inactive or latent form of GDF8, a signaling protein also known as myostatin responsible for ...

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

January 18, 2018
T cells play a key role in the body's immune response against pathogens. As a new class of therapeutic approaches, T cells are being harnessed to fight cancer, promising more precise, longer-lasting mitigation than traditional, ...

Weight flux alters molecular profile, study finds

January 17, 2018
The human body undergoes dramatic changes during even short periods of weight gain and loss, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Secrets of longevity protein revealed in new study

January 17, 2018
Named after the Greek goddess who spun the thread of life, Klotho proteins play an important role in the regulation of longevity and metabolism. In a recent Yale-led study, researchers revealed the three-dimensional structure ...

The HLF gene protects blood stem cells by maintaining them in a resting state

January 17, 2018
The HLF gene is necessary for maintaining blood stem cells in a resting state, which is crucial for ensuring normal blood production. This has been shown by a new research study from Lund University in Sweden published in ...

Magnetically applied MicroRNAs could one day help relieve constipation

January 17, 2018
Constipation is an underestimated and debilitating medical issue related to the opioid epidemic. As a growing concern, researchers look to new tools to help patients with this side effect of opioid use and aging.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.