Hepcidin as a potential biomarker for blood doping

Drug Test Anal. 2017 Jul;9(7):1093-1097. doi: 10.1002/dta.2122. Epub 2016 Nov 18.


The concentration of hepcidin, a key regulator of iron metabolism, is suppressed during periods of increased erythropoietic activity. The present study obtained blood samples from 109 elite athletes and examined the correlations between hepcidin and markers of erythropoiesis and iron metabolism (i.e., haemoglobin, erythropoietin (EPO), ferritin, erythroferrone (ERFE), and iron concentration). Furthermore, an administration study was undertaken to examine the effect of recombinant human EPO (rhEPO) delta (Dynepo™) on hepcidin concentrations in healthy male volunteers. The effects on hepcidin were then compared with those on reticulocyte percentage (Ret%) and ferritin concentration. There was a significant positive correlation between hepcidin and ferritin, iron, and haemoglobin levels in athletes, whereas hepcidin showed an inverse correlation with ERFE. Administration of rhEPO delta reduced hepcidin levels, suggesting that monitoring hepcidin may increase the sensitivity of the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) for detecting rhEPO abuse. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Keywords: EPO; blood doping; hepcidin.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Doping in Sports
  • Erythropoiesis / drug effects
  • Erythropoietin / administration & dosage*
  • Erythropoietin / blood*
  • Ferritins / blood
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Hepcidins / blood*
  • Humans
  • Iron / blood
  • Male
  • Reticulocyte Count
  • Reticulocytes / cytology
  • Reticulocytes / drug effects
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • EPO protein, human
  • Hemoglobins
  • Hepcidins
  • Erythropoietin
  • Ferritins
  • Iron