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Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most prevalent neurodegenerative disorder in the world, and intracellular neurofibrillary tangles and extracellular amyloid-beta protein deposits represent the major pathological hallmarks of the disease. Currently available treatments provide some symptomatic relief but fail to modify primary pathological processes that underlie the disease. Erythropoietin (EPO), a hematopoietic growth factor, acts primarily to stimulate erythroid cell production, and is clinically used to treat anemia. EPO has evolved as a therapeutic agent for neurodegeneration and has improved neurological outcomes and AD pathology in rodents. However, penetration of the blood–brain barrier (BBB) and negative hematopoietic effects are the two major challenges for the therapeutic development of EPO for chronic neurodegenerative diseases like AD. The transferrin receptors at the BBB, which are responsible for transporting transferrin-bound iron from the blood into the brain parenchyma, can be used to shuttle therapeutic molecules across the BBB. In this review, we discuss the role of EPO as a potential neurotherapeutic for AD, challenges associated with EPO development for AD, and targeting the BBB transferrin receptor for EPO brain delivery.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in NeuroMolecular Medicine, volume 21, issue 1, in 2019 following peer review. The final publication may differ and is available at Springer via

A free-to-read copy of the final published article is available here.





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