Performance boosting hormone may help patients with mental disorders
London: Individuals suffering from bipolar disorder or depression treated with a hormone best known to boost performance in sportspersons may also improve their cognitive functioning, a study has found.

The hormone erythropoietin (EPO), mostly produced by the kidney, is essential for the production of red blood cells.  EPO gives the blood a greater capacity to carry oxygen, and is thus used as a performance-enhancing drug by the sportspersons, the study said. The findings showed that EPO had beneficial effects on patients’ verbal memory, attention span as well as planning ability. The EPO-treated patients showed 11 per cent improvement while placebo treated patients improved only by 2 per cent.  “This effect of EPO on cognition was maintained six-weeks after patients had completed their treatment,” said lead researcher Kamilla Miskowiak from University of Copenhagen in Denmark.  Further, the patients who performed poorly in neuropsychological tests showed remarkably greater cognitive benefits when given EPO.  “This means that we may be able to target patients for EPO treatment and perhaps other future cognition treatments, based on how they do on neuropsychological tests,” Miskowiak added.  EPO based drugs are safe if patients’ red blood cell levels are controlled regularly.  However, the EPO may not be beneficial for people who smoke or who previously had blood clots or the have high risk of blood clots, the researchers said.  “EPO may not be ready to be rolled out as a treatment just yet and may not be for everyone,” Miskowiak noted.

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