UBC‐nepal expedition: Phenotypical evidence for evolutionary adaptation in the control of cerebral blood flow and oxygen delivery at high altitude
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Debilitating side effects of hypoxia manifest within the central nervous system; however, high‐altitude natives of the Tibetan plateau, the Sherpa, experience negligible cerebral effects compared to lowland natives at extreme altitude. Phenotypical optimization of the oxygen cascade has been demonstrated in the systemic circulation of Tibetans and Sherpa, likely underscoring their adapted capacity to thrive at altitude. Yet, little is known as to how the cerebral circulation of Sherpa may be adapted. To examine potential differences in cerebral oxygen delivery in Sherpa compared to lowlanders we measured arterial blood gases and global cerebral blood flow (duplex ultrasound) during a nine‐day ascent to 5050m. Although cerebral oxygen delivery was maintained during ascent in lowlanders, it was significantly reduced in the Sherpa at 3400m (‐30.3 ± 21.6%; P < 0.01) and 4371m (‐14.2 ± 10.7%; P = 0.03). Furthermore, linear mixed effects modeling indicated that independent of differences in mean arterial pressure, pH and blood viscosity, race accounts for an approximate 100 mL · min−1 (∼17‐34%) lower CBF in Sherpa compared to lowlanders across ascent to altitude (P = 0.046). To ascertain the role of chronic hypoxia independent of the ascent, Sherpa who had not recently descended were also examined at 5050m. In these Sherpa, cerebral oxygen delivery was also lower compared to lowlanders (∼22% lower; P < 0.01). We highlight new information about the influence of race and genetic adaptation in the regulation of cerebral oxygen delivery. The lower cerebral oxygen delivery in the Sherpa potentially represents a positive adaptation considering Sherpa endure less deleterious cerebral consequences than lowlanders at altitude.
Journal of Physiology;
Hoiland, R., Howe, C., Carter, H., Tremblay, J., Willie, C., Donnelly, J., MacLeod, D., Gasho, C., Stembridge, M., Boulet, L., Niroula, S. and Ainslie, P. (2019) 'UBC‐nepal expedition: Phenotypical evidence for evolutionary adaptation in the control of cerebral blood flow and oxygen delivery at high altitude', Journal of Physiology. DOI: 10.1113/JP277596.
Article published in Journal of Physiology on 26 April 2019, available at: https://doi.org/10.1113/JP277596.
Cardiff Metropolitan University (Grant ID: Cardiff Metropolian (Internal))
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Grant Number: RGPIN‐2015‐03766
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