A protein called the hypoxia-inducible factor – or HIF for short – is activated in cells of the human organism as soon as the oxygen content in tissue drops. Among other things, the HIF protein stimulates the production of the hormone erythropoietin (EPO) in the kidneys, which in turn stimulates the formation of red blood cells (erythrocytes) in the bone marrow (erythropoiesis). Red blood cells bind oxygen and transport it around the body.
As soon as enough oxygen is present, the HIF is broken down and removed from the cells. This process is initiated by the enzyme HIF prolyl hydroxylase (HIF-PH).
This biochemical mechanism could be a potential target for treating patients whose bodies do not produce enough EPO as a result of chronic renal failure, and who consequently suffer from anemia.
Bayer is engaged in research in the field of erythropoietin regulation.