Skip to Content

Doping Hormone Erythropoietin Also Boosts Brainpower

The red-blood-cell-boosting hormone is already used to treat anemia and by some athletes to boost endurance.

The red-blood-cell-boosting hormone erythropoietin (EPO), which is used clinically to treat anemia and illegally by athletes to boost endurance, may also improve brainpower. According to research published in the journal BMC Biology, mice treated with the drug performed better in certain learning and memory tests than did control animals.

EPO is popular among dopers because it increases blood oxygenation, mimicking the effect of blood doping. But it also targets the nervous system, improving survival of brain cells. The drug is currently in clinical trials for traumatic brain injury and stroke. (A previous post describes how EPO blocks brain swelling after trauma.)

The new research looks at how the drug affects a healthy brain. According to a press release issued by the journal,

[Hannelore] Ehrenreich [from the Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine, in Göttingen, Germany] and her colleagues tested the effects of erythropoietin on the ability of the mice to learn how to exploit an experimental set-up to receive sugared water. Over a series of learning stages, the mice were trained to get their treat by poking their noses into holes lit by LEDs, rather than into unlit holes, within a time limit. The mice that had been treated with recombinant human erythropoietin were significantly more likely to master the task than those that had not. According to Ehrenreich, “Treated mice showed superior performance in associative, operant and discriminant learning as well as in the initial training phases. Moreover, erythropoietin-treated mice demonstrated better task adaptation and higher performance stability.”

The researchers conclude, “Further untangling of molecular mechanisms of erythropoietin action on higher cognitive functions may ultimately open new avenues for prevention strategies and therapeutic interventions in neuropsychiatric diseases.”

Keep Reading

Most Popular

open sourcing language models concept
open sourcing language models concept

Meta has built a massive new language AI—and it’s giving it away for free

Facebook’s parent company is inviting researchers to pore over and pick apart the flaws in its version of GPT-3

transplant surgery
transplant surgery

The gene-edited pig heart given to a dying patient was infected with a pig virus

The first transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart into a human may have ended prematurely because of a well-known—and avoidable—risk.

Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research
Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research

Saudi Arabia plans to spend $1 billion a year discovering treatments to slow aging

The oil kingdom fears that its population is aging at an accelerated rate and hopes to test drugs to reverse the problem. First up might be the diabetes drug metformin.

Yann LeCun
Yann LeCun

Yann LeCun has a bold new vision for the future of AI

One of the godfathers of deep learning pulls together old ideas to sketch out a fresh path for AI, but raises as many questions as he answers.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.