What is Erythropoietin?

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Erythropoietin refers to a type of hormone that is responsible for facilitating the bone marrow’s production of red blood cells. This hormone is produced by the kidney when the cells that produce erythropoietin sense low levels of oxygen in the blood. Low levels of oxygen may be a symptom of anemia, which is a condition characterized by decreased number of red blood cells. The red blood cells have hemoglobin molecules which are responsible for carrying oxygen in different parts of the body.

Erythropoietin is categorized under glycoproteins, which are substances that act as stimulants for the development of certain types of blood cells. When the erythropoietin promotes the production of more red blood cells in the bone marrow, it will result in an increase in the capacity of the blood to carry oxygen.

Aside from the kidneys, erythropoietin can also be produced by the liver. However, the liver is responsible for only an estimated 10% of the total erythropoietin in the body. The presence of this hormone in the blood can be detected, and tests for measuring erythropoietin are conducted to help diagnose certain medical conditions. Abnormal levels of this hormone can be a symptom of diseases of the kidneys or the bone marrow.

The normal level of erythropoietin in the blood is within the range of 4 to 24 milliunits per milliliter. Low levels of erythropoietin can be caused by decreased amounts of red blood cells or anemia that is associated with kidney disease. On the other hand, high levels of this hormone can be caused by kidney tumor or polycythemia, which is a condition characterized by too many red blood cells.

Before an erythropoietin test is performed, the patient will be required to do fasting for about 8 to 10 hours. Furthermore, he/she may also be asked to relax for 20-30 minutes before the test is conducted. Basically, erythropoietin test involves obtaining a blood sample and having it analyzed in the laboratory.