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Repoxygen - The Future of Doping on Steroids

Erythropoietin Injectibles Erythropoietin is a hormone which is released from the kidneys. Its function is to stimulate the bone marrow to make more red blood cells. Repoxygen is the trade name for the gene that is claimed to increase the release of erythropoietin from the kidneys. The higher the number of red cells, the greater is the oxygen binding capacity of these cells. Theoretically, an increased in blood oxygen should lead to an increase in exercise performance.
The gene is still in the development stage and only used in animals; so far no human testing has been done. Oxford Biomedical has constructed a viral gene delivery vector which can carry the human EPO gene. The majority of these studies have been carried out in mice and are still in the infant stages. At least in animals the administration of the gene results in an increased in red blood cell mass. Erythropoietin & Increased Blood Cell Mass

In clinical medicine, Repoxygen will be used to treat cases of resistant anemia in individuals with renal failure. The researchers claim that the gene will be activated when the oxygen concentration in the blood is low and will turn itself off when the oxygen concentration has been replenished. It is believed that a similar gene plays a physiological role in the control of EPO from the kidneys.

There are some reports that a few European athletes may have injected themselves with this gene (or related product) to increase their red blood cell mass. However, physiologically, if a person has a normal red cell count and normal oxygen concentration, the gene would not activate the release of EPO. The gene is only programmed to activate when it senses low oxygen. While there is some who say this is a poor choice for doping, the problem can easily be circumvented by tricking the gene. There are some simple ways to make the gene sense low oxygen in the body. This is by working out in cold weather or taking pills of nitroglycerin or sodium thiocyanate. Nitroglycerin is a common drug used to treat patients who have angina.

However, this self regulation of the gene is simply a hypothetical concept and not proven in the laboratory or in any patient. As far as is known, injection of the gene will stimulate the production of EPO forever. Once the gene is inserted into the body, it is there for life.

If an individual does increase the mass of red blood cells with the gene, the potential side effects may include the following:
  • The blood does become viscous as the mass of red cells is increased. And this can clog up many small blood vessels. This could force the heart to work harder and the blood can also be prone to clotting
  • One can also develop a heart attack if the small blood vessels to the heart get blocked
  • A stroke can also occur for the same reasons
  • Others could also develop a blood clot in the lungs
These risks are worsened manifold when the individual exercises and gets dehydrated.
Repoxygen Study Repoxygen is banned by all sports organizations. While gene therapy is making news in medicine, the science of illegal gene use in sports is still in infancy. Even though scientists are working out how to detect this gene in the body just in case athletes start to abuse it, we are still a long ways off. Detection of genes is neither a cheap undertaking nor is it done with analysis of urine. For the moment, athletes who ever get access to this product will be safe for quite some time.


Yoshimi M, Maeyama T, Yamada M, Hamada N, Fukumoto J, Kawaguchi T, Kuwano K, & Nakanishi Y. (2008). Recombinant human erythropoietin reduces epithelial cell apoptosis and attenuates bleomycin-induced pneumonitis in mice. Respirology 13(5). 639-645.

Percy MJ. (2008). Familial erythrocytosis arising from a gain-of-function mutation in the HIF2A gene of the oxygen sensing pathway. Ulster Medical Journal 77(2). 86-88.

Oxford BioMedica: Successful Preclinical Results for new Anemia Product.

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