Inserm, Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale
Faculté de pharmacie, Aix Marseille Université

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Erythropoietin and cerebral protection after acute injuries : a double-edged sword ?

L. Vellya,b, L. Pellegrinia,b, B. Guilleta, N. Bruderb, P. Pisano, 2010. Pharmacology and Therapeutics. Pages 128(3):445-59. Impac factor IF 8,560


Over the past 15 years, a large body of evidence has revealed that the cytokine erythropoietin exhibits non-erythropoietic functions, especially tissue-protective effects. The discovery of EPO and its receptors in the central nervous system and the evidence that EPO is made locally in response to injury as a protective factor in the brain have raised the possibility that recombinant human EPO (rhEPO) could be administered as a cytoprotective agent after acute brain injuries. This review highlights the potential applications of rhEPO as a neuroprotectant in experimental and clinical settings such as ischemia, traumatic brain injury, and subarachnoid and intracerebral hemorrhage. In preclinical studies, EPO prevented apoptosis, inflammation, and oxidative stress induced by injury and exhibited strong neuroprotective and neurorestorative properties. EPO stimulates vascular repair by facilitating endothelial progenitor cell migration into the brain and neovascularisation, and it promotes neurogenesis. In humans, small clinical trials have shown promising results but large prospective randomized studies failed to demonstrate a benefit of EPO for brain protection and showed unwanted side effects, especially thrombotic complications. Recently, regions have been identified within the EPO molecule that mediate tissue protection, allowing the development of non-erythropoietic EPO variants for neuroprotection conceptually devoid of side effects. The efficacy and the safety profile of these new compounds are still to be demonstrated to obtain, in patients, the benefits observed in experimental studies.