Total hemoglobin (Hb) mass is an important determinant of aerobic power. The glycoprotein erythropoietin (Epo) promotes the production of red blood cells (RBCs). The present article reviews the regulation of erythropoiesis and ways of its manipulation. The various Epos, e.g. recombinant human (rh)Epo and (epoetin), and their long-acting analogues can be misused by cheating athletes, but the drugs are detectable by chemical tests, because their glycan isoform structures differ from those of endogenous Epo. Still, anti-doping control has become more difficult, since additional erythropoiesis-stimulating agents have become available (Epo mimetics, activin inhibitors, and small-molecule chemical drugs activating EPO expression). A major problem is created by hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) stabilizers (e.g. α-ketoglutarate competitors and Co2+ salt) which activate HIFs and thus increase EPO expression. Direct EPO transfer is theoretically also possible but medically little advanced. To overcome weaknesses of direct testing of biological fluids, the World Anti-Doping Agency has implemented the Athlete Biological Passport for continuous monitoring of RBC parameters of athletes. Blood doping is assumed when distinct parameters (blood Hb concentration and reticulocytes) change in a nonphysiological way.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)