HIF Studies- What are They and Why are They Important?

Posted by: DaVita Clinical Research

Anemia is a common condition that affects most patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD). This condition is when the body lacks enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the tissues in the body (Anemia, 2019). It often leaves a person feeling fatigued or weak. In the past, there has been a range of potential treatments for patients suffering from anemia. More recently, some new treatments focus on hypoxia-inducible factors (HIF) proteins.

What are Hypoxia-Inducible Factors (HIFs)?

HIFs are proteins that help to stimulate red blood cell production. Simply put, they are regulators of oxygen homeostasis (Gunton, 2020). These proteins are expressed when there are low oxygenated or hypoxic conditions in the body. The release of HIF proteins stimulates another hormone, erythropoietin (EPO), which reacts by enabling the bone marrow to produce red blood cells. Having chronic kidney disease or receive hemodialysis regularly can affect the release of this hormone due to HIFs degrading too quickly.

Recent HIF Study Findings

Recent studies are finding that utilizing HIF inhibitors for treatment prolongs the life span of the HIF protein, which in turn prolongs the HIFs ability to stimulate the EPO hormones to be released and produce more red blood cells. With increased red blood cells, more oxygen can get to the tissue, treating the anemia in patients.

Why are these studies exciting?

These studies surrounding HIFs as a way to treat anemia is patients with chronic kidney disease, whether they are on dialysis or not, are exciting because of their ability to not only be utilized long term to manage patient’s anemia, but also due to their accessibility. These treatments being studied are oral treatments, benefiting dialysis subjects, but making access easier for those not yet receiving dialysis


Anemia. (2019, August 16). Retrieved March 03, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20351360

Gunton, J. (2020, October 01). Hypoxia-inducible factors and diabetes. Retrieved March 03, 2021, from https://www.jci.org/articles/view/137556