Memory enhanced by sports-cheat drug

Sep 09, 2008

A drug used to increase blood production in both medical treatments and athletic doping scandals seems also to improve memory in those using it. New research published in the open access journal BMC Biology shows that the memory enhancing effects of erythropoietin (EPO) are not related to its effects on blood production but due to direct influences on neurons in the brain. The findings may prove useful in the treatment of diseases affecting brain function, such as schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer's.

Patients given EPO to treat chronic kidney failure had been observed to have improved cognition after starting the drug. "These effects of EPO were thought to result from the blood-boosting effects of the drug", explains Hannelore Ehrenreich at the Max Planck Institute, "but the finding of receptors for EPO on nerve cells in the brain suggests that some other mechanism might be involved."

To investigate the mechanisms of EPO-enhanced cognition, the researchers injected mice with EPO every other day for three weeks (11 doses) to test the effects of long-term exposure. After the treatment period, mice given EPO had better memory in some situations than did mice that had been given a placebo instead. The improvement in memory lasted up to three weeks from the last EPO dose and outlasted increased blood-cell production, but had disappeared by four weeks. Mice given three doses saw no benefit with respect to memory improvement.

"Young mice systematically treated with EPO for three weeks have improved memory, similar to the dramatic improvements observed in endurance and muscular performance athletes who use EPO to boost performance", says Ehrenreich. The specific memory improvements were associated with the hippocampus, a structure in the brain involved in learning and memory, among other functions.

The researchers did a series of experiments on hippocampal tissue taken from the mice and found that EPO directly affected the neurons in this structure. "EPO had pronounced effects on short-term and long-term plasticity in the hippocampus as well as on synaptic transmission", the researchers report. "Treatment with EPO seems to increase the number of inhibitory circuits, which actually increases the efficiency of transmission of excitatory nerve impulses in specific neurons, resulting in greater short-term and long-term plasticity in memory pathways in the hippocampus."

These findings begin to shed light on the mechanisms of improvements in cognition seen in patients with schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis as a result of treatment with this drug. As well as working to refine these findings, further studies might also investigate the effects of EPO on other brain regions that might be associated with improvements in motor functions in multiple sclerosis, and investigate the potential of using EPO or targeting the networks involved in EPO-generated neuronal plasticity in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

Source: BioMed Central

Explore further: Medical charity accuses US of pushing India to ease patent rules

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Drug for anemic cancer patients raises risk of death

Feb 26, 2008

Millions of cancer patients take drugs to boost their red blood cells and health when they become anemic after chemotherapy. But a new study by Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine shows these drugs, called ...

Recommended for you

Ebola vaccine not before late 2016: GSK researcher

Oct 17, 2014

An Ebola vaccine by British pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline may not be ready for commercial use until late 2016 and should therefore not be seen as the "primary answer" to the current outbreak, a company researcher ...

Chimerix gets FDA OK to test drug for Ebola

Oct 17, 2014

(AP)—A North Carolina drugmaker plans to test its experimental antiviral drug in patients who have Ebola, after getting authorization from regulators at the Food and Drug Administration.

Esbriet, ofev approved to treat deadly lung disease

Oct 16, 2014

(HealthDay)—Two new drugs have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat progressive lung scarring from an uncertain cause, medically called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

FDA weighs removing bolded warning from Chantix

Oct 14, 2014

(AP)—The Food and Drug Administration will ask a panel of experts later this week whether a bold-letter warning on the anti-smoking drug Chantix should be removed based on company-supported evidence that the drug does not ...

Drug-coated balloon catheter approved

Oct 13, 2014

(HealthDay)—The first drug-coated balloon catheter designed to clear narrowed or blocked arteries in the thigh and knee has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

User comments : 0