Erythropoietin (EPO), a renal cytokine, regulates proliferation, differentiation and maturation of erythroid cells. Recombinant human erythropoietin (rH-EPO) is well known to correct anemia in patients with chronic renal failure undergoing dialysis. Recent studies have reported several non-hematopoietical effects of EPO. Erythropoietin receptors have been discovered in a variety of tissues, including the cardiovascular system. Recently published data including recent patent documented an enhancement of cardiac function in patients with heart failure receiving EPO treatment. Furthermore, experiments carried out in animal models of ischemia/reperfusion (IR) injury have shown a significant reduction in infarct size following EPO treatment. Other beneficial effects of EPO are related to its pro-angiogenic action on endothelial cells, which might be of potential value in patients with ischemic heart disease. Taken together, these findings suggest that EPO may be clinically useful as an adjunct in the treatment of different cardiovascular conditions, besides the simple correction of anemia. This review will focus on the pleiotropic effects of EPO in the cardiovascular system and its promising novel applications.
Keywords: Erythropoietin, apoptosis, anemia, ischemia, myocardial infarction, heart failure
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