The view from the lab of Huayna Potosi, 6088m.

Even in people who feel completely well at high altitude, there is an unexplained leakage of fluid out of the blood vessels. We know that this is caused by a shortage of oxygen, but we have very little understanding of the process. In fact, the same thing happens to severely ill patients in intensive care units. If we knew how to prevent fluid leakage, we could save lives both in the mountains and back home at sea level.


We have three test days in the lab.

Using state-of-the-art technology generously provided by our main sponsor, Affymetrix, we will examine in unprecedented detail the response of circulating white blood cells to altitude exposure.

We will use a portable ultrasound machine (kindly supplied by Toshiba) to measure fluid leakage as accurately as possible in the lungs, heart and other tissues.

We will also take a small amount of blood from each research volunteer on each of the test days to look for hormones and chemicals that may be causing fluid leakage.

We also aim to assess the blood vessels in the eye, and how, if at all, visual acuity and colour perception is affected by altitude.

We will also be completing a number of psychological questionnaires and experiments to see how volunteers cope with altitude.


All protocols have been ethically approved by the Lothian Regional Ethics Committee. If you have any questions about our research protocols, please .

by Chris Pennington
Last updated June 2011