Erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) have markedly reduced the need for blood transfusion for renal anemia and are included in standard therapies for patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Various protective effects of ESAs on the cardiovascular system have been discovered through basic research, and the effects have received much attention because the rates of cardiovascular events and mortality are high in CKD patients. However, randomized clinical trials did not provide strong evidence that ESAs exert cardioprotection in humans, including CKD patients. It is difficult to assess the cardioprotective effects of ESAs in CKD patients through the clinical data that has been reported to date because the relationship between hemoglobin level rather than ESA dose and cardiovascular event rates was examined in most studies. Interestingly, recent studies using a rat model of CKD showed that the infarct size-limiting effect of an ESA was lost when its dose was increased to a level that normalized blood hemoglobin levels, suggesting that the optimal dose of an ESA for myocardial protection is less than the dose required to normalize hemoglobin levels. Furthermore, animal models of traditional coronary risk factors or comorbidities were resistant to the cardioprotective effects of ESAs because of interruptions in signal-mediated mechanisms downstream of erythropoietin receptors. In this review, we briefly discuss basic and clinical data on the impact of anemia on coronary and systemic circulation, the effects of CKD on the cardiovascular system, and the multiple pharmacological actions of ESAs to examine whether the ESAs that are prescribed for renal anemia exert any cardioprotection in patients with CKD.© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.
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