New evidence indicates that erythropoietin prevents the destruction of tissue surrounding the site of a brain injury (Michael Brines and Anthony Cerami, Emerging biological roles for erythropoietin in the nervous system. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 6, 484-494, 2005). This function is possible by signalling through a non-haematopoietic receptor. Engineered derivatives of erythropoietin that have a high affinity for this receptor have been developed, and these show robust tissue-protective effects in different pre-clinical models without stimulating erythropoiesis. A recent successful clinical trials that used erythropoietin to treat patients who had suffered a stroke, encourages the evaluation of both this cytokine and non-erythropoietic derivatives as drugs to treat tissue injury.

Erythropoietin mediates an evolutionarily conserved, ancient immune response that limits damage to the heart, the nervous system and other tissues following injury.


BM&L-June 2005