Erythropoietin is the prime regulator of red blood cell production. However, recent evidence suggests that the hormone has multiple effects outside the hematopoietic system. Functional receptors have been identified on a wide variety of normal and malignant cell types, and numerous biologic effects of the hormone on these cells have been observed both in vitro and in vivo. These findings are causing a reassessment of the understanding of erythropoietin physiology. Moreover, there are important implications for the use of recombinant erythropoietin in the clinical setting.
Keywords: angiogenesis; brain; cancer; gut; reproductive system.