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Everest expedition suggests nitric oxide benefits for intensive care patients
Date:10/6/2011

The latest results from an expedition to Mount Everest that looked at the body's response to low oxygen levels suggest that drugs or procedures that promote the body's production of a chemical compound called nitric oxide (NO) could improve the recovery of critically ill patients in intensive care.

Oxygen is required by all larger organisms, including humans, to survive. Many critically ill patients suffer from a shortage of oxygen (a condition known as 'hypoxia'), which can be life-threatening. NO is produced by virtually every cell and organ in the body where it serves many important functions including the regulation of blood pressure, learning and memory formation, and protecting us from infectious diseases.

This work, the product of collaboration between scientists at UCL and the University of Warwick, made use of blood samples and results collected during the 2007 Caudwell Xtreme Everest (CXE) expedition. The results show that NO production and activity are elevated in people who live at near sea-level altitudes ('lowlanders') that ascend to altitude, leading to changes in blood flow in the smallest blood vessels.

Published today in Scientific Reports, the new open access journal from Nature Publishing Group, the paper suggests that interventions to alter NO production some of which already exist in the form of drugs or gas may benefit critically ill patients in whom oxygen availability is limited.

This is the first time such effects have been documented in a larger group of lowlanders and is consistent with earlier data from residents of the Tibetan plateau ('highlanders') showing their normal NO levels to be much elevated compared to people living near sea-level. Doctors believe increased NO may be beneficial for people, particularly patients with low levels of oxygen in their blood, because it increases the body's ability to tolerate and adapt to a low oxygen supply.

The paper is based on expe
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Contact: Kate Cox
kate.cox@warwick.ac.uk
44-247-615-0483
University of Warwick
Source:Eurekalert

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