Background and aims: Erythropoietin (EPO) stimulates erythropoiesis through its specific receptor (EPO-R). Preclinical work has assigned a role for the EPO/EPO-R system in the heart and blood vessels. The potential use of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) for nonhematopoietic indications is a focus of current research. This article considers proven actions of EPO in the cardiovascular system, with emphasis on the human responses. Data synthesis: By use of specific anti-EPO-R antibody no EPO-R protein was detected by Western blotting in normal non-erythroid tissues. Clinical trials failed to demonstrate clear beneficial effects of high-dosed ESAs in patients with coronary syndrome or myocardial infarct. While ESA therapy may lead to an elevation in arterial blood pressure in previously anemic patients, several studies have reported no effects on vessels/blood pressure with ESAs. EPO has been reported to stimulate angiogenesis. EPO-R mRNA is detectable in human vascular endothelium. However, in most vitro studies very high concentrations of EPO were applied and well-designed studies have failed to show direct effects of ESAs on endothelial cells. Whether EPO promotes the mobilization of myeloid progenitor cells into the blood stream still needs to be studied in more detail, as this effect may prove useful for augmenting the neovascularization of ischemic tissues. With respect to the administration of ESAs to tumor patients, a deeper insight into the role of EPO for tumor angiogenesis is desirable. Conclusions: The enthusiastic reports of the nonhematopoietic cytoprotective potential of EPO and its derivatives in the cardiovascular system have not yet been confirmed in placebo-controlled clinical trials.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)