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Open Journal of Hematology

ISSN: 2075-907X
Volume 8, 2017

Indexed in:

Open Journal of Hematology, 2012, 3-6 [Mini-Review]

The Disparate Roles of Cobalt in Erythropoiesis, and Doping Relevance

Wolfgang Jelkmann
Institute of Physiology, University of Luebeck, Luebeck, Germany

Corresponding Author & Address:

Wolfgang Jelkmann*
Institute of Physiology, University of Luebeck, Ratzeburger Allee 160, D – 23562 Luebeck, Germany; Tel.: +49-(0)451-500 4150; Fax: +49-(0)451-5004151; Email: jelkmann@physio.uni-luebeck.de

Article History:
Published: 11th December, 2012   Accepted: 11th December, 2012
Received: 24th October, 2012      

© Wolfgang Jelkmann; licensee Ross Science Publishers

ROSS Open Access articles will be distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided that the original work will always be cited properly.

Keywords: erythropoiesis, anemia treatment, cobalamin, vitamin B12, cobaltous chloride, erythropoietin, hypoxia inducible factor, doping


Some athletes seek to increase their red blood cells, because the aerobic capacity correlates with the mass of hemoglobin. Cobalt as part of dietary supplements is proclaimed to increase erythropoiesis and physical performance. However, the knowledge of the disparate mechanisms of cobalt´s actions in erythropoiesis is generally insufficient. First, there are cobalt-containing corrinoids, termed cobalamin or vitamin B12. These are naturally present only in animal-derived foods. The active forms in the human body are methylcobalamin and deoxyadenosylcobalamin, which are essential cofactors for the methionine synthase and the L-methylmalonyl-coenzyme A mutase. Cobalamin deficiency can result in anemia. However, supplemental cobalamin does not benefit performance unless a nutritional deficit is present. Second, inorganic cobalt ions (Co2+) stimulate erythropoiesis, even in non-anemic subjects. Co2+ stabilizes the hypoxia-inducible transcription factors (HIFs) which increase the expression of the erythropoietin gene (EPO). Cobaltous salts are orally active, easy to obtain and inexpensive. Typical side effects associated with chronic Co2+ exposure include nausea, vomiting, heart failure, hypothyroidism and goiter. The potential misuse of inorganic cobalt deserves attention in anti-doping efforts.

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