Cobalt and erythropoetin

Cobalt is considered an essential trace element because it is the central atom of vitamin B12, which serves the body as a coenzyme. Unfortunately, other biological functions are rarely noticed, although there have been several studies on that topic. Many decades ago, it has been observed that supplementation with B12 cannot compensate for a cobalt deficiency in animals, which leads to the conclusion that cobalt also has other biological functions besides B12. Furthermore, cobalt deficiency in animals leads to growth deficits, anaemia and reduced immunity.

It is known that cobalt increases the production of erythropoetin (also known as EPO).

Cobalt leads to a reaction in the body that is otherwise triggered by hypoxia (lack of oxygen). Cobalt prevents the degradation of the transcription factor HIF-1α (hypoxia-inducible factor-1α), which means that more of it is present and active. This transcription factor induces the production of erythropoetin.

This results in many indirect effects of cobalt. Erythropoetin induces the formation of red blood cells (erythropoiesis), which improves the body’s oxygen supply and performance. Cobalt was used for this purpose by athletes as a doping agent, but is now prohibited by the anti-doping agency.

Through the increased formation of erythrocytes, cobalt helps against anemia.

Erythropoetin also has other interesting functions – it is cardioprotective and neuroprotective, improves memory, modulates plasticity and connections of neuronal networks and stimulates neurogenesis; therefore, there are some clinical studies on the use of Epo and Epo-inducing factors in brain diseases such as stroke, schizophrenia and MS.

Nickel induces erythropoetin formation like cobalt due to chemical similarity, but is not prohibited by the anti-doping agency.

Our own experience with cobalt: better concentration, mental alertness and quick thinking in a pleasant way.

Luisa Gleichauf

Resources:

Becker, D. E., Smith, S. E., Loosli, J. K. Vitamin B12 and cobalt deficiency in sheep. Science (Washington) 1949 Vol.110 pp.71-72

Henry A. Schroeder, Alexis P. Nason, Isabel H. Tipton, Essential trace metals in man: Cobalt, Journal of Chronic Diseases, Volume 20, Issues 11–12, 1967, Pages 869-890, ISSN 0021-9681

Yuan Y, Hilliard G, Ferguson T, Millhorn DE. Cobalt inhibits the interaction between hypoxia-inducible factor-alpha and von Hippel-Lindau protein by direct binding to hypoxia-inducible factor-alpha. J Biol Chem. 2003 May 2;278(18):15911-6.

Goldberg MA, Dunning SP, Bunn HF. Regulation of the erythropoetin gene: evidence that the oxygen sensor is a heme protein. Science. 1988 Dec 9;242(4884):1412-5.

Lippi G, Franchini M, Guidi GC. Cobalt chloride administration in athletes: a new perspective in blood doping? Br J Sports Med. 2005 Nov;39(11):872-3. PubMed PMID: 16244201

Xi L, Taher M, Yin C, Salloum F, Kukreja RC. Cobalt chloride induces delayed cardiac preconditioning in mice through selective activation of HIF-1alpha and AP-1 and iNOS signaling. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2004 Dec;287(6):H2369-75


Bartesaghi S, Marinovich M, Corsini E, Galli CL, Viviani B. Erythropoetin: a novel neuroprotective cytokine. Neurotoxicology. 2005 Oct;26(5):923-8. Epub 2005 May 31. Review.

Sirén AL, Fasshauer T, Bartels C, Ehrenreich H. Therapeutic potential of erythropoetin and its structural or functional variants in the nervous system. Neurotherapeutics. 2009 Jan;6(1):108-27.

Adamcio B, Sargin D, Stradomska A, Medrihan L, Gertler C, Theis F, Zhang M, Müller M, Hassouna I, Hannke K, Sperling S, Radyushkin K, El-Kordi A, Schulze L, Ronnenberg A, Wolf F, Brose N, Rhee JS, Zhang W, Ehrenreich H. Erythropoetin enhances hippocampal long-term potentiation and memory. BMC Biol. 2008 Sep 9;6:37.

Shrivastava K, Shukla D, Bansal A, Sairam M, Banerjee PK, Ilavazhagan G. Neuroprotective effect of cobalt chloride on hypobaric hypoxia-induced oxidative stress. Neurochem Int. 2008 Feb;52(3):368-75

Oskarsson A, Reid MC, Sunderman FW Jr. Effects of cobalt chloride, nickel chloride, and nickel subsulfide upon erythropoiesis in rats. Ann Clin Lab Sci. 1981 Mar-Apr;11(2):165-72.

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