Erythropoietin (EPO) facts
Erythropoietin (EPO) is a hormone produced by the kidney.
Erythropoietin promotes the formation of red blood cells by the bone marrow.
The erythropoietin hormone level can be detected and measured in the blood (the EPO test).
Measurement of the blood erythropoietin level can be used to detect certain conditions.
Erythropoietin can be synthesized and used as a treatment of some forms of anemia.
Erythropoietin has been misused as a performance-enhancing drug by some athletes.
What is erythropoietin?
Erythropoietin (EPO) is a hormone produced by the kidney that promotes the formation of red blood cells by the bone marrow.
The kidney cells that make erythropoietin are sensitive to low oxygen levels in the blood that travels through the kidney. These cells make and release erythropoietin when the oxygen level is too low. A low oxygen level may indicate anemia, a diminished number of red blood cells, or hemoglobin molecules that carry oxygen through the body.
Chemically, what is erythropoietin (EPO)?
Erythropoietin is a protein with an attached sugar (a glycoprotein). It is one of a number of similar glycoproteins that serve as stimulants for the growth of specific types of blood cells in the bone marrow.
What exactly does erythropoietin (EPO) do?
Erythropoietin stimulates the bone marrow to produce more red blood cells. The resulting rise in red cells increases the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.
As the prime regulator of red cell production, erythropoietin’s major functions are to:
Promote the development of red blood cells.
Initiate the synthesis of hemoglobin, the molecule within red blood cells that transports oxygen.