Original Research

Cardiovascular Toxicology

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 201-210

Erythropoietin Promotes Deleterious Cardiovascular Effects and Mortality Risk in a Rat Model of Chronic Sports Doping

  • Nuno PilotoAffiliated withInstitute of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, IBILI, Medicine Faculty, Sub-Unit 1 (Polo III), Coimbra University
  • , Helena M. TeixeiraAffiliated withForensic Toxicology Laboratory, North Branch of the National Institute of Legal Medicine
  • , Edite Teixeira-LemosAffiliated withInstitute of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, IBILI, Medicine Faculty, Sub-Unit 1 (Polo III), Coimbra University
  • , Belmiro ParadaAffiliated withInstitute of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, IBILI, Medicine Faculty, Sub-Unit 1 (Polo III), Coimbra University
  • , Patrícia GarridoAffiliated withInstitute of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, IBILI, Medicine Faculty, Sub-Unit 1 (Polo III), Coimbra University
  • , José SerenoAffiliated withInstitute of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, IBILI, Medicine Faculty, Sub-Unit 1 (Polo III), Coimbra University
  • , Rui PintoAffiliated withPharmacology & Pharmacotoxicology Unit, Pharmacy School, Lisbon University
  • , Lina CarvalhoAffiliated withInstitute of Anatomic Patology Medicine Faculty, Coimbra University
  • , Elísio CostaAffiliated withInstitute of Health Sciences, University CatholicInstitute for Molecular and Cellular Biology, Porto University
    • , Luís BeloAffiliated withInstitute for Molecular and Cellular Biology, Porto UniversityDepartment of Biochemistry, Pharmacy Faculty, Porto University
    • , Alice Santos-SilvaAffiliated withInstitute for Molecular and Cellular Biology, Porto UniversityDepartment of Biochemistry, Pharmacy Faculty, Porto University
    • , Frederico TeixeiraAffiliated withInstitute of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, IBILI, Medicine Faculty, Sub-Unit 1 (Polo III), Coimbra UniversityInstitute for Molecular and Cellular Biology, Porto University
    • , Flávio ReisAffiliated withInstitute of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, IBILI, Medicine Faculty, Sub-Unit 1 (Polo III), Coimbra UniversityInstitute for Molecular and Cellular Biology, Porto University Email author 

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Abstract

Athletes who abuse recombinant human erythropoietin (rhEPO) consider only the benefit to performance and usually ignore the potential short and long-term liabilities. Elevated haematocrit and dehydratation associated with intense exercise may reveal undetected cardiovascular risk, but the mechanisms underlying it remain to be fully explained. This study aimed to evaluate the cardiovascular effects of rhEPO in rats under chronic aerobic exercise. A ten week protocol was performed in four male Wistar rat groups: control—sedentary; rhEPO—50 IU kg−1, 3 times/wk; exercised (EX)—swimming for 1 h, 3 times/wk; EX + rhEPO. One rat of the EX + rhEPO group suffered a sudden death episode during the week 8. rhEPO in trained rats promoted erythrocyte count increase, hypertension, heart hypertrophy, sympathetic and serotonergic overactivation. The suddenly died rat’s tissues presented brain with vascular congestion; left ventricular hypertrophy, together with a “cardiac-liver”, suggesting the hypothesis of heart failure as cause of sudden death. In conclusion, rhEPO doping in rats under chronic exercise promotes not only the expected RBC count increment, suggesting hyperviscosity, but also other serious deleterious cardiovascular and thromboembolic modifications, including mortality risk, which might be known and assumed by all sports authorities, including athletes and their physicians.

Keywords

rhEPO Doping Chronic aerobic exercise Cardiovascular and mortality risk