Effect of chronic erythropoietin administration on plasma iron in newborn lambs

Charles Peters, Michael K. Georgieff, Pedro A. de Alarcon, Robert T. Cook, Leon F. Burmeister, Lance S. Lowe, John A. Widness

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Erythropoietin, the primary stimulator of erythropoiesis, represents an important potential therapy for the anemia of prematurity. Enhancement of the therapeutic benefit of recombinant human erythropoietin (rhEp) in very-low-birth-weight infants will require a better understanding of rhEp’s pharmacodynamic effects including its interaction with iron in stimulating erythropoiesis. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of chronic rhEp administration on plasma iron levels and hematopoiesis using a twin lamb model. Nine pairs of twin lambs in which one twin was randomized to receive rhEp, and the other saline, were studied during a 1-week baseline and a subsequent 4- to 5-week treatment period. The effects of therapy on plasma iron levels and erythropoiesis were measured by integrating the areas under the concentration-time curves (AUC) of the study variables. During the rhEp treatment period, significantly greater negative daily AUCs were observed in the rhEp-treated lambs for plasma iron concentration (p = 0.0008), while significantly greater positive daily AUCs were observed for hemoglobin concentration (p = 0.04) and reticulocyte count (p = 0.02). In the rhEp-treated group, pretreatment iron concentrations were directly associated with the magnitude of the iron response during treatment such that the greater the pretreatment iron, the greater the daily AUC below the plasma iron concentration-time plot (r = −0.66, p = 0.05). For the placebo-treated group, this association tended toward, but did not achieve, statistical significance (r = −0.52, p = n.s.). These observations suggest that treatment of rapidly growing newborn lambs with rhEp results in increased iron utilization due to increased erythropoiesis and depends on iron status at the initiation of rhEp treatment. Use of the term neonatal lamb model offers advantages over studies in human infants for more detailed or invasive examinations of the interaction of iron and rhEp treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)218-228
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1996


  • Anemia
  • Erythropoiesis
  • Erythropoietin
  • Iron
  • Pharmacodynamics


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