Recombinant erythropoietin (EPO), the red blood cell stimulant,does not appear to give added benefit to patients who donatetheir own blood for transfusion during surgery, Japaneseresearchers report this week in The Lancet.

Twenty-five patients were included in the random study, andall received iron to counter anemia. Red blood cell productionwas boosted by giving EPO, yet patients who did not get thestimulant nevertheless recovered easily from any anemia dueto the blood collection and the surgery.

EPO-treated patients, in fact, took longer to secrete their ownerythropoietin after the surgery, which may result from aninhibitory effect of the recombinant hormone on "endogenouserythropoietin secretion," the scientists said.

The researchers, from Fukushima Medical College, cautionedthat the small study size should be taken into account, and theyconcluded that recombinant EPO "will mainly be used for olderpatients" facing surgery that will involve appreciable bloodloss.

Chugai Pharmaceutical of Tokyo supplied the EPO for the study.-- Roberta Friedman, Ph.D.

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