Gilbert-Kawai, Edward, Sheperdigian, Adam, Adams, Thomas, Mitchell, Kay, Feelisch, Martin, Murray, Andrew, Peters, Mark, Gilbert-Kawai, Grace, Montgomery, Hugh, Levett, Denny, Kumar, Rajendra, Mythen, Michael, Grocott, Michael and Martin, Daniel
Design and conduct of Xtreme Everest 2: an observational cohort study of Sherpa and lowlander responses to graduated hypobaric hypoxia
F1000 Research, 4, . (doi:10.12688/f1000research.6297.1). (PMID:26064476).
Objective: oxygen availability falls with ascent to altitude and also as a consequence of critical illness. Because cellular sequelae and adaptive processes may be shared in both circumstances, high altitude exposure (‘physiological hypoxia’) assists in the exploration of the response to pathological hypoxia. We therefore studied the response of healthy participants to progressive hypobaric hypoxia at altitude. The primary objective of the study was to identify differences between high altitude inhabitants (Sherpas) and lowland comparators.
Methods: we performed an observational cohort study of human responses to progressive hypobaric hypoxia (during ascent) and subsequent normoxia (following descent) comparing Sherpas with lowlanders. Studies were conducted in London (35m), Kathmandu (1300m), Namche Bazaar (3500m) and Everest Base Camp (5300m). Of 180 healthy volunteers departing from Kathmandu, 64 were Sherpas and 116 were lowlanders. Physiological, biochemical, genetic and epigenetic data were collected. Core studies focused on nitric oxide metabolism, microcirculatory blood flow and exercise performance. Additional studies performed in nested subgroups examined mitochondrial and metabolic function, and ventilatory and cardiac variables. Of the 180 healthy participants who left Kathmandu, 178 (99%) completed the planned trek. Overall, more than 90% of planned testing was completed. Forty-four study protocols were successfully completed at altitudes up to and including 5300m. A subgroup of identical twins (all lowlanders) was also studied in detail.
Conclusion: this programme of study (Xtreme Everest 2) will provide a rich dataset relating to human adaptation to hypoxia, and the responses seen on re-exposure to normoxia. It is the largest comprehensive high altitude study of Sherpas yet performed. Translational data generated from this study will be of relevance to diseases in which oxygenation is a major factor
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