UBC-Nepal Expedition: An experimental overview of the 2016 University of British Columbia Scientific Expedition to Nepal Himalaya

Christopher K. Willie, Michael Stembridge, Ryan L. Hoiland, Michael M. Tymko, Joshua C. Tremblay, Alexander Patrician, Craig Steinback, Jonathan Moore, James Anholm, Prajan Subedi, Shailesh Niroula, Chris J. McNeil, Ali McManus, David B. MacLeod, Philip N. Ainslie*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)
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    The University of British Columbia Nepal Expedition took place over several months in the fall of 2016 and was comprised of an international team of 37 researchers. This paper describes the objectives, study characteristics, organization and management of this expedition, and presents novel blood gas data during acclimatization in both lowlanders and Sherpa. An overview and framework for the forthcoming publications is provided. The expedition conducted 17 major studies with two principal goals-to identify physiological differences in: 1) acclimatization; and 2) responses to sustained high-altitude exposure between lowland natives and people of Tibetan descent. We performed observational cohort studies of human responses to progressive hypobaric hypoxia (during ascent), and to sustained exposure to 5050 m over 3 weeks comparing lowlander adults (n = 30) with Sherpa adults (n = 24). Sherpa were tested both with (n = 12) and without (n = 12) descent to Kathmandu. Data collected from lowlander children (n = 30) in Canada were compared with those collected from Sherpa children (n = 57; 3400-3900m). Studies were conducted in Canada (344m) and the following locations in Nepal: Kathmandu (1400m), Namche Bazaar (3440m), Kunde Hospital (3480m), Pheriche (4371m) and the Ev-K2-CNR Research Pyramid Laboratory (5050m). The core studies focused on the mechanisms of cerebral blood flow regulation, the role of iron in cardiopulmonary regulation, pulmonary pressures, intraocular pressures, cardiac function, neuromuscular fatigue and function, blood volume regulation, autonomic control, and micro and macro vascular function. A total of 335 study sessions were conducted over three weeks at 5050m. In addition to an overview of this expedition and arterial blood gas data from Sherpa, suggestions for scientists aiming to perform field-based altitude research are also presented. Together, these findings will contribute to our understanding of human acclimatization and adaptation to the stress of residence at high-altitude.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0204660
    JournalPLoS One
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


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