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Research on Top of the World

Edmund Hillary may never have dreamt of this. His beloved Everest is soon to be part of a research aimed at helping patients with hypoxia or oxygen deprivation//.

The study; Xtreme Everest, pioneered by University College London, and lead by Mike Grocott will see around 250 volunteers and doctors climb Mount Everest.

Blood samples drawn at various altitudes will give an idea of oxygen levels of the various persons.

For those who ask why use a mountain? - The clue is that at high altitudes, the atmospheric pressure decreases drastically, and this results in lesser amounts of oxygen being delivered to the lungs.

Before the expedition, a DNA map of the volunteers will be drawn after tests at sea level. Scientists feel a link explored between genes and oxygen level could definitely help in case of hypoxia.

Patients lying in an ICU ward usually experience hypoxia or low oxygen levels that can cause circulation problems and metabolism difficulties.

The treatments involve using drugs like adrenalin, which can harm the heart and artificial ventilation, which can cause lung infection.

So in this case results which give a clue on the relationship of genes (which determine how an individual’s cells use oxygen) and oxygen levels can definitely be used in future, to use treat patients accordingly.

In essence the project, which costs about more than a million pounds, will see 40 doctors and 200 volunteers climb up and down the mountain.

A base camp will be set up at 5,300 meters, and medical labs at 7,000 meters and at the summit of 8,850 meters, the volunteer's brain, lung and circulation will be tested before they trek up Mount Everest and at various altitude levels.

The study, which has drawn international attention, hopes to help doctors understand how critically ill patients respond to low oxygen levels, and how hypoxia can be treated.

Says Dr Mike Grocott, ‘We hope it (the project) will increase our understanding of what is making critically-ill people ill and give us the opportunity to develop treatments to help.’

‘The research is very significant and could help people in intensive care around the world.’

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