UBC-Nepal expedition: Imposed oscillatory shear stress does not further attenuate flow-mediated dilation during acute and sustained hypoxia

Joshua C. Tremblay, Connor A. Howe, Philip N. Ainslie, Kyra E. Pyke*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    Experimentally induced oscillatory shear stress (OSS) and hypoxia reduce endothelial function in humans. Acute and sustained hypoxia may cause increases in resting OSS; however, whether this influences endothelial susceptibility to further increases in OSS is unknown. Healthy lowlanders (n = 15, 30 ± 6 yr; means ± SD) participated in three OSS interventions: two interventions at sea level [normoxia and after 20 min of normobaric hypoxia (acute hypoxia, 11% O2)] and one intervention 5–7 days after a 9-day ascent to 5,050 m (sustained hypoxia). OSS was provoked in the brachial artery using a 30-min distal cuff inflation (75 mmHg). Endothelial function was assessed before and after each intervention by reactive hyperemia flow-mediated dilation (FMD). Shear stress magnitude and patterns were obtained via Duplex ultrasound. Baseline retrograde shear stress and OSS were greater in acute hypoxia versus normoxia (P < 0.001), and OSS was elevated in sustained hypoxia versus normoxia (P = 0.011). The intervention further augmented OSS during each condition. Preintervention FMD was decreased by 29 ± 48% in acute hypoxia and by 25 ± 31% in sustained hypoxia compared with normoxia (P < 0.001 and 0.026); these changes correlated with changes in baseline mean and antegrade shear stress. After the intervention, FMD decreased during normoxia (-41 ± 26%, P < 0.001) and was unaltered during acute or sustained hypoxia. Therefore, a 30-min exposure to OSS reduced FMD during normoxia, a condition with an unchallenged, healthy endothelium; however, imposed OSS did not appear to worsen endothelial function during acute or sustained hypoxia. Exposure to an altered magnitude and pattern of shear stress at baseline in hypoxia may contribute to the insensitivity to further acute augmentation of OSS. NEW & NOTEWORTHY We investigated whether the endothelium remains sensitive to experimental increases in oscillatory shear stress in acute (11% O2) and sustained (2 wk at 5,050 m) hypoxia. Hypoxia altered baseline shear stress and decreased endothelial function (flowmediated dilation); however, exposure to experimentally induced oscillatory shear stress only impaired flow-mediated dilation in normoxia.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)H122-H131
    JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


    • Endothelial function
    • Flow-mediated dilation
    • High altitude
    • Hypoxia
    • Shear stress


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