rHuEPO (recombinant human erythropoietin) is a haemopoietic growth factor and a primary regulator of erythropoiesis that is used for the treatment of chronic anaemia associated with RA (rheumatoid arthritis). Erythropoietin also appears to modulate a broad array of cellular processes, including progenitor stem-cell development, cellular integrity, angiogenesis and oxidative damage. These diverse activities suggest the exciting possibility of multiple roles for rHuEPO therapy in a variety of disorders other than RA, including cerebral ischaemia, myocardial infarction, chronic congestive heart failure and cancer. Thus it appears that rHuEPO may be a pleiotropic agent, capable of influencing tissue remodelling independently of its established erythropoietic role. Whereas these effects may be largely beneficial, dose-related side effects could have implications for the safe therapeutic use of rHuEPO and its illegal use as a performance-enhancing agent in endurance sports.

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