A recent story in the news reported the re-testing of blood samples from cyclists in this years Tour de France. It seems that several cyclists had suspicious urine samples related to the naturally occurring hormone erythropoietin. In all our bodies, erythropoietin (EPO) is produced by cells in the kidney. EPO circulates in the bloodstream eventually signaling to marrows cells in the cavities of our bones to stimulate production of new red blood cells (erythrocytes). The production of new RBCs is termed... erythropoiesis. Drug companies produce and market synthetic forms of EPO to treat anemia which can often occur with cancer chemotherapy, kidney failure, AIDS, and more.
Cyclists in this years Tour de France are suspected of using a newer generation of EPO called CERA, marketed my the pharmaceutical company Roche. Endurance athletes illegally use EPO type substances in order to increase their RBC count and thus improve the oxygen carrying capacity of their blood. Basically, it improves cardiovascular function giving these elite athletes a potential edge on the competition. Roche suggests that CERA might be more effective than other available EPO drugs... the following is a brief description of CERA from the Roche website:
CERA is a Continuous Erythropoiesis Receptor Activator. Studies have shown that CERA has unique activity at the receptor site. It is postulated this is related to its repeated and rapid attachment and dissociation from the receptor involved in triggering erythropoiesis (red blood cell formation) together with an extended serum half life. This results in more potent stimulation of erythropoiesis, both in magnitude and duration, compared to standard EPO drugs.
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