Erythropoietin in cardiac disease: Effective or harmful?

Vittoria Mastromarino, Maria B. Musumeci, Elena Conti, Giuliano Tocci, Massimo Volpe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Discovered as the primary regulator of erythropoiesis, erythropoietin (EPO) is involved in a broad variety of processes that play a major role in cardiovascular diseases. In particular, the antiapoptotic and pro-angiogenic properties of EPO have prompted a growing interest in the use of EPO for the treatment of myocardial infarction and heart failure. In a variety of myocardial ischemic injury animal models, EPO administration has been shown to acutely reduce infarct size, thereby preserving ventricular function. In addition, cardiac long-term effects of EPO, such as prevention of ventricular remodeling and heart failure, have been described. In recent years, several trials have tested the effects of recombinant human erythropoietin (rhEPO) administration in patients with myocardial infarction and chronic heart failure, in the attempt to translate the cardioprotection found in experimental models to human patients. In view of the generally controversial findings, in this updated review we provide an overview of the results of the most recent trials that investigated the role of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs), including rhEPO and its analogue darbepoetin, in the treatment of acute myocardial infarction and heart failure. The problems related to safety and tolerability of ESA therapy are also discussed. Our analysis of the available literature demonstrates that the results of clinical studies in patients with cardiac disease are not uniform and the conclusions are contradictory. Further larger prospective studies are required to test clinical efficacy and safety of EPO.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)870-878
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cardiovascular Medicine
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


  • Anemia
  • Cerebrovascular thromboembolism
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Erythropoietin
  • Myocardial infarction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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