Erythropoietin (EPO) was first identified as a hematopoietic cytokine that stimulates proliferation and differentiation of erythroid progenitor cells and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for chronic renal disease patients with anemia. In neural tissues, EPO is working via EPO receptors and induces non-hematopoietic effects. Recent studies have demonstrated that EPO exerts therapeutic potentials on neurological disorders such as ischemic stroke, intracerebral hemorrhage, subarachnoid hemorrhage, traumatic brain injury, and Parkinsons disease. EPO treatment has been shown to reduce the ischemic infarct and hemorrhage volume, decrease neuronal death including apoptosis, and improve survival rates in animal models. The mechanism of EPO action in neurological disorders involves neuroprotection and promotion of neurogenesis and angiogenesis. Clinical trials of EPO treatments in neurological diseases have accumulated positive results. In stroke patients, EPO treatment may reduce infarct volume and improve functional outcomes. EPO administration has proven safe in animal studies and adult human patients, although safety and efficacy data in neonates and infants are incomplete and long-term multi-center patient evaluations are necessary. Available information suggests that EPO is a promising therapeutic drug for the treatment of neurological diseases.
Keywords: Erythropoietin, neuroprotection, stroke, mitochondria, hypoxic/ischemic preconditioning