The Caudwell Xtreme Everest team undertook the largest human biology study ever performed at high altitude. In our purpose built exercise laboratories positioned along the trek to Everest base camp, we studied over two hundred volunteers as they climbed progressively higher into the thin atmosphere. More detailed research was performed on a group of scientists who climbed to the summit of Everest.
The researchers, many working as Intensive Care doctors and nurses, hope to make links between the human body at its limits during critical illness and changes that occur to individuals at high altitude. In common with intensive care patients, high altitude mountaineers have a low level of oxygen in their blood. It is this similarity which inspired us to look closely at the changes which occur to people as they ascend to high altitude.
Our research is divided into four main areas:
We are studying oxygen delivery and utilization at high altitude. Oxygen delivery describes the process of how oxygen molecules are brought to tissues of the body. Oxygen utilization looks at how efficiently the oxygen is used by the cells once it has been ?delivered?. more>
We are looking at changes in blood flow to the brain and how this affects its ability to function normally. more>
We are investigating the processes which may lead to illnesses that affect the lungs at high altitude. more>
We tested the effectiveness of a new portable breathing system that is more efficient at delivering oxygen. more>
Why do research at high altitude?As you climb higher into the Earth?s atmosphere the pressure of air around you falls. As a result of this, the amount of oxygen available to you decreases. Oxygen is a vital fuel for every cell in the body: without it humans cannot survive. So as climbers make their way up high mountains, such as Everest, they are gradually reducing the amount of oxygen in their body and risking the consequences of hypoxia (dangerously low levels of oxygen in their blood). As doctors working in intensive care medicine, we see a similar thing happening to our critically ill patients in hospital. Many of these patients struggle to survive due to low levels of oxygen in their blood as a result of their underlying illness.
By studying people going to high altitude we have been able to monitor changes occurring to them as they climbed into an atmosphere containing progressively less oxygen. What we learn from these people as they push themselves to the limit of human performance, will help us to understand what is happening to patients fighting for their lives on intensive care units.
More information about why Everest is better than an alitude chamber click here>