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AltitudeOmics: The Integrative Physiology of Human Acclimatization to Hypobaric Hypoxia and Its Retention upon Reascent.
Publication types: Journal Article , PDF : Research Article
An understanding of human responses to hypoxia is important for the health of millions of people worldwide who visit, live, or work in the hypoxic environment encountered at high altitudes. In spite of dozens of studies over the last 100 years, the basic mechanisms controlling acclimatization to hypoxia remain largely unknown. The AltitudeOmics project aimed to bridge this gap. Our goals were 1) to describe a phenotype for successful acclimatization and assess its retention and 2) use these findings as a foundation for companion mechanistic studies. Our approach was to characterize acclimatization by measuring changes in arterial oxygenation and hemoglobin concentration [Hb], acute mountain sickness (AMS), cognitive function, and exercise performance in 21 subjects as they acclimatized to 5260 m over 16 days. We then focused on the retention of acclimatization by having subjects reascend to 5260 m after either 7 (n = 14) or 21 (n = 7) days at 1525 m. At 16 days at 5260 m we observed: 1) increases in arterial oxygenation and [Hb] (compared to acute hypoxia: PaO2 rose 9±4 mmHg to 45±4 while PaCO2 dropped a further 6±3 mmHg to 21±3, and [Hb] rose 1.8±0.7 g/dL to 16±2 g/dL; 2) no AMS; 3) improved cognitive function; and 4) improved exercise performance by 8±8% (all changes p<0.01). Upon reascent, we observed retention of arterial oxygenation but not [Hb], protection from AMS, retention of exercise performance, less retention of cognitive function; and noted that some of these effects lasted for 21 days. Taken together, these findings reveal new information about retention of acclimatization, and can be used as a physiological foundation to explore the molecular mechanisms of acclimatization and its retention.
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