Erythropoietin (Epo) is upregulated by hypoxia and provides protection against apoptosis of erythroid progenitors in bone marrow and brain neurons. In June 17 Advanced Online Nature Medicine, Christian Grimm and colleagues from University Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland show that erythropoietin is upregulated in the hypoxic retina via the hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) and protects against light-induced retinal degeneration (Nat Med 2002, DOI:10.1038/nm723).

Grimm et al. used adult murine retinas and observed that hypoxic pretreatment protects mouse photoreceptors from apoptotic cell death after in vivo exposure to light levels that normally induce damage. Acute hypoxia stimulated the expression of Epo via HIF-1α stabilization in a dose-dependent manner. In addition, systemic application of human recombinant Epo before or after light insult protected the photoreceptors, demonstrating that Epo crosses the blood–retina barrier.

"Our results showing Epo-mediated retinal neuroprotection after systemic administration make Epo a promising tool for clinical applications in a...

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