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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Maze learning impairment is associated with stress hemopoiesis induced by chronic treatment of aged rats with human recombinant erythropoietin.

Mean cell volume (MCV) of erythrocytes has been reported to increase with age in humans, and to be negatively correlated with memory performance in humans and rats. We evaluated hematological changes in 21-mo old male Fischer 344 rats undergoing a 3-mo twice weekly subcutaneous injection of human recombinant erythropoietin ( EPO). A baseline hematocrit (HCT) was obtained initially and repeated at monthly intervals to determine the effectiveness of EPO treatment. At 24-mo of age and after 3 mo EPO treatment, the rats were tested for their ability to learn a 14-unit T maze. Following maze testing, blood was drawn for hematologic analyses, including HCT, MCV, maximum swollen cell volume (MCVS), mean cell transit time (MCTT), and the membrane shear modulus of elasticity (G), the latter a derived measure of the relative elasticity of the red cell membrane. After 1 mo EPO treatment, HCT significantly increased compared to saline-injected controls. After 2 mo treatment, HCT began to decline but remained elevated above baseline levels even after 3 mo treatment. After 3 mo EPO treatment, MCV was significantly lower in EPO-treated rats compared to controls. These changes imply altered hemopoiesis to produce cells which undergo shrinkage associated with accelerated cellular aging. The lower MCV would have predicted a shorter MCTT which instead was unchanged. This observation suggested the presence of an additional factor contributing to the MCTT. The G, which measures the membrane contribution to deformability, very significantly increased with EPO treatment. This finding indicates an increased contribution of membrane properties to the MCTT after EPO treatment, which cancels the expected decrease in MCTT for smaller cells. After 3 mo of EPO treatment, aged rats exhibited significantly impaired maze learning compared to controls. A relationship between, changes in erythrocyte membrane properties and impaired function was indicated by a significant correlation (r=0.67, p <0.04) between G and errors in the 14-unit T-maze. These findings suggest that stress-induced erythropoiesis produces accelerated aging in the red blood cell population that may have functional implications (i.e., impaired learning ability).[1]


  1. Maze learning impairment is associated with stress hemopoiesis induced by chronic treatment of aged rats with human recombinant erythropoietin. Rifkind, J.M., Abugo, O.O., Peddada, R.R., Patel, N., Speer, D., Balagopalakrishna, C., Danon, D., Ingram, D.K., Spangler, E.L. Life Sci. (1999) [Pubmed]
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