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European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 116, Issue 3, pp 623–633 | Cite as

RhEPO improves time to exhaustion by non-hematopoietic factors in humans

  • Simon Annaheim
  • Matthias Jacob
  • Alexander Krafft
  • Christian Breymann
  • Markus Rehm
  • Urs BoutellierEmail author
Original Article

Abstract

Purpose

Erythropoietin (EPO) controls red cell volume (RCV) and plasma volume (PV). Therefore, injecting recombinant human EPO (rhEPO) increases RCV and most likely reduces PV. RhEPO-induced endurance improvements are explained by an increase in blood oxygen (O2) transport capacity, which increases maximum O2 uptake (\(\dot{V}\)O2max). However, it is debatable whether increased RCV or \(\dot{V}\)O2max are the main reasons for the prolongation of the time to exhaustion (t lim) at submaximal intensity. We hypothesized that high rhEPO doses in particular contracts PV such that the improvement in t lim is not as strong as at lower doses while \(\dot{V}\)O2max increases in a dose-dependent manner.

Methods

We investigated the effects of different doses of rhEPO given during 4 weeks [placebo (P), low (L), medium (M), and high (H) dosage] on RCV, PV, \(\dot{V}\)O2max and t lim in 40 subjects.

Results

While RCV increased in a dose-dependent manner, PV decreased independent of the rhEPO dose. The improvements in t lim (P +21.4 ± 23.8 %; L +16.7 ± 29.8 %; M +44.8 ± 62.7 %; H +69.7 ± 73.4 %) depended on the applied doses (R 2 = 0.89) and clearly exceeded the dose-independent \(\dot{V}\)O2max increases (P −1.7 ± 3.2 %; L +2.6 ± 6.8 %; M +5.7 ± 5.1 %; H +5.6 ± 4.3 %) after 4 weeks of rhEPO administration. Furthermore, the absolute t lim was not related (R 2 ≈ 0) to RCV or to \(\dot{V}\)O2max.

Conclusions

We conclude that a contraction in PV does not negatively affect t lim and that rhEPO improves t lim by additional, non-hematopoietic factors.

Keywords

rhEPO doping Oxygen transport capacity Red blood cell volume Plasma volume 

Abbreviations

ANOVA

Analysis of variance

AWC

Anaerobic work capacity

BL

Baseline

CLT

Constant-load test

CO

Carbon monoxide

CP

Critical power

CV

Coefficient of variation

EP

End point (after 4 weeks)

EPO

Erythropoietin

fcell

Cellular factor (HctWB/Hct)

H

High dosage of rhEPO (10,000 IU)

Hct

Haematocrit

HctWB

Whole body haematocrit

i.v.

Intra venous

ICG

Indocyanine green

ICT

Incremental cycling test

L

Low dosage of rhEPO (2,500 IU)

M

Medium dosage of rhEPO (5,000 IU)

MP

Mid point (after 2 weeks)

NaCl

Sodium chloride

O2

Oxygen

P

Placebo (physiological NaCl solution)

Pmax

Maximal power

PV

Plasma volume

RCV

Red cell volume

RER

Respiratory exchange rate

rhEPO

Recombinant human EPO

rpm

Revolution per min

t360

Time after 360 s

tlim

Time of CLT

\(\dot{V}\)CO2

Carbon dioxide production

\(\dot{V}\)E

Minute ventilation

\(\dot{V}\)O2

Oxygen consumption

\(\dot{V}\)O2lim

Mean \(\dot{V}\)O2 during the last 30 s before t lim

\(\dot{V}\)O2max

Maximum oxygen consumption

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors are grateful to the participants for their voluntarily contribution. We also thank Renate Huch, Christian Bauer, Marco Toigo and René Rossi for scientific assistance. The study was financially supported by the Eidgenössische Sportkommission, Magglingen (to UB).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simon Annaheim
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Matthias Jacob
    • 4
  • Alexander Krafft
    • 5
  • Christian Breymann
    • 5
  • Markus Rehm
    • 4
  • Urs Boutellier
    • 1
    • 3
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.Exercise Physiology, Institute of Human Movement SciencesETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Laboratory for Protection and PhysiologyEMPA, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and TechnologySt. GallenSwitzerland
  3. 3.Exercise Physiology, Institute of PhysiologyUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  4. 4.Department of AnaesthesiologyUniversity HospitalMunichGermany
  5. 5.Division of Obstetrics, Department of Obstetrics and GynaecologyUniversity HospitalZurichSwitzerland
  6. 6.Exercise PhysiologyETH ZurichWinterthurSwitzerland

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