University of Cambridge Scientists are going to Xtremes on Mt. Everest
University of Cambridge (UK) scientists Drs. Julian Griffin and Andrew Murray, as well as PhD student Tom Ashmore recently embarked on the Xtreme Everest 2 expedition, where researchers will use themselves as guinea pigs for medical science at the Mt. Everest Base Camp.
The expedition aims to understand how the human body is affected by low oxygen pressures (or hypoxia) to help to find new treatments for intensive care patients. Xtreme Everest is a not-for-profit organization, led by doctors and scientists from UCL, University of Southampton, U.K. and Duke University in the United States. "This is going to be a unique opportunity both scientifically and personally to study human physiology in these extreme conditions," said Dr Julian Griffin, Group Leader of Lipid Profiling and Signalling at MRC Human Nutrition Research and the University Of Cambridge Department of Biochemistry before the team departed from London.
"While the concentration of oxygen at Everest Base Camp drops to half its normal level at sea level, we know the body adapts very well to this. If we could understand better how this is done, we could have new targets and therapies for a variety of major human diseases." Dr. Griffin and his colleagues, as well as more than 130 scientists, nurses, and medical doctors from around the UK, travelled to Kathmandu on March 16, then to Everest Base Camp at 5,350 m above sea level to monitor how a group of healthy volunteers naturally adapt to low oxygen concentrations.
Upon his return, Dr. Griffin will also be studying samples taken during the expedition to better understand how the body metabolizes lipids under hypoxic conditions. Blood samples and muscle tissue biopsies will be used in a number of metabolomics and lipidomics experiments designed to help the researchers to better understand how protein function and, more specifically, branched-chain amino acid metabolism are impacted by low oxygen concentrations. This work is scheduled to be conducted on SCIEX LC/MS/MS systems.
During Xtreme Everest many individuals will enter negative energy balance and start to use their body's fat reserves – the opposite of what happens in obese people. "We are particularly interested in how the body switches between food reserves at low oxygen levels, as this is important for people in intensive care and other situations where oxygen delivery maybe impaired," said Dr. Griffin.
To learn more about the Xtreme Everest 2 Expedition, follow the team's posts on the SCIEX Facebook page.