HIGH ALTITUDE RESEARCH EXPEDITION: BOLIVIA, 2021

APEX was founded by medical students at the University of Edinburgh in 2001. Since then, hundreds of students have taken part in expeditions investigating the effect of altitude and hypoxia on the human body. The latest expedition, APEX 6, will be in June 2021 after being postponed due to COVID-19...

 

THE ITINERARY

The APEX 6 expedition will begin on in La Paz (3700m) for an initial acclimatisation period of 5 days, before we ascend to our base on Huyana Potosi (4700m). We will stay on Huyana Potosi for 8 days. 

Data and sample collection will be carried out during the acclimatisation phase in La Paz and throughout our time at Huyana Potosi.

The expedition will conclude on our return to La Paz. 

RESEARCH DURING APEX 6

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CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS AT ALTITUDE

We are conducting a pioneering project examining the impact of individuals’ body clocks (also known as chronotype) on physiological and clinical outcomes. This addresses a key knowledge gap in wilderness medicine that affects the interpretation of previous high-altitude studies and has potentially contributed to conflicting data on interventions for preventing/treating acute mountain sickness. As well as the relevance of this research to human health in the context of jetlag and hypoxia, this will also set a new standard for chronotype-control in studies carried out in other wilderness environments.

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DARK ADAPTATION AT ALTITUDE

Sight is critical for orientation, movement, and balance and so visual function is clearly essential for the safety and performance of pilots, mountaineers, and athletes training at altitude. Furthermore, as the only visible part of the brain, studying retinal function at altitude provides a unique opportunity to objectively assess the effects of hypoxia on the brain. In future, changes in retinal function may be used as a new variable in field research on altitude sickness, which was not available previously owing to the impractical nature of traditional methods of measuring dark adaptation. This is an exciting field of research, with
the potential to benefit those exposed to hypoxia due to both environment and illness.

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ALTITUDE AND THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE

This project aims to investigate the link between hypoxia inducible factor (hif) 1 alpha and menstrual blood loss, following on from the work of Edinburgh researcher Dr Jackie Maybin. This will involve female participants self-analysing blood volumes using pictograms and analysis of blood samples collected over the course of this research project. This work is especially relevant to women experiencing the very common condition of heavy menstrual bleeding.

 

THE ORGANISING COMMITTEE

Apex 6 will be lead by five Medical Students from the University of Edinburgh. 

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OLIVER VICK 

Expedition Leader (Operations)

Oliver is a fifth year medical student and Expedition Leader for APEX 6. Besides making sure everything comes together on time, he will also be overseeing the logistics of the expedition - making sure everything is ready for us flying out, and that the expedition runs safely and smoothly. A keen traveller, Oliver has been to 50 countries, having caught the travel bug as a volunteer on APEX 5. Through travelling, as well as other areas, he has gained extensive experience in getting people and equipment from A to B and leading diverse groups of people. Aside from travelling, Oliver has an active interest in health policy, healthcare management, events management and politics. Oliver is not yet planning to undertake any research on the expedition, instead focussing on organisational aspects, but may yet be open to persuasion!

SOPHIE HATTERSLEY

Expedition Leader (Research)

Sophie is a sixth year medical student at the University of Edinburgh. As well as overseeing all research, Sophie will be undertaking her own research into the pathophysiology of high-altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPE). Her academic interests are in expedition medicine, trauma and surgery. Outside of studying, Sophie is a keen photographer, and loves travelling the globe in search of the perfect shot; Bolivia, Peru, Malaysia and Indonesia to name a few. Having been inspired by the amazing team on Apex 5 to lead her own expedition, she can’t wait for all the hard work to pay off. It’ll be great to be back in the beautiful Bolivian Andes, doing cutting edge research and inspiring a new generation!

ERIN BENNETT 

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Head of Grants and Sponsorship

Erin is currently a fifth year medical student. During this expedition, she will be taking the lead on   investigating the effects of altitude and hypoxia on the menstrual cycle. As a volunteer on APEX5, she thoroughly enjoyed exploring South America and is looking forward to seeing more of the beautiful continent. In her spare time, Erin loves a good book (slowly making her way through some non-fiction these days) as well as walking at home in the Borders and the occasional run!

ALASTAIR WOODHEAD

Head of Accounts and Funding

Alastair is a fifth year medical student at the University of Edinburgh, who developed a keen interest in expedition medicine as a volunteer on the APEX 5 expedition. Alongside Erin, Alastair has taken on the role of coordinating funding and sponsorship. Alastair will also be undertaking a research project investigating sleep at altitude. Outside of medicine, Alastair’s interests lie in sport and spending time away from his beloved bikes will certainly be his greatest challenge! Don’t be surprised to see him hiking up Huayna Potosi in search of signal to check on the latest sporting news!

SUZANNE GREEN

Head of Volunteering & Communications

Suzanne is a 3rd year medical student at the University of Edinburgh. She joined the committee this year, taking over Sarah Lewis's role as head of volunteers and communications. This will be Suzanne's first APEX and she is very excited to get involved. Outside of medicine, Suzanne is a keen sportsman and can be found running or playing hockey.  She has only travelled to South America once before to play hockey so would love to go back to explore more of the continent. When not exercising she can likely be found having a nap or with friends!

 

VOLUNTEERS

APEX6 has recruited a fantastic group of volunteers. Meet the rest of the team!

Gus Bartlett
Gus is a second-year product design student. Coming from a non-medical background, he is keen to join the expedition and learn about the medical research process. Gus is also a keen surfer and you can find him on the weekend getting barrelled at Pease Bay. Gus is looking forward to exploring South America and sampling some of the Bolivian cuisine.
Bethan MacDonald
Bethan is a first year medical student excited to travel to south America for the first time as it has been at the top of her bucket list for a while! Outside of Medicine Bethan loves dance, baking and being up mountains. As a covid fresher she is excited to meet loads of people on the trip
Becky Lillicrap
Becky is a fourth-year medical student who has arrived in Edinburgh this year from St Andrews. In her first year at Edinburgh, she has taken up reading, jigsaw making and hot chocolate drinking on distanced walks around the Meadows so can't wait to visit a new continent and finally get to know some fellow Edinburgh students!
Sam Soete
Sam is a 4th year medic and is incredibly excited to travel to South America. He loves mountains and can't wait to engage with primary research on the peaks of Bolivia. Beside hiking, he also loves bouldering, cycling and reading.
Renee de Maat
Renée is a first-year medical student at the University of Edinburgh and is looking forward to her first encounter with medical research on APEX 6. Besides medicine, she enjoys playing piano, hockey, and hiking. Having always loved travelling, she is excited to experience South America for the first time and can’t wait to see what it has to offer!
Kirsty Wilson
Kirsty is a third-year medical student currently intercalating in Bioethics & Law. She loved her first trip to South America so much that she is using APEX 6 as an excuse to go back. She's sure the research will be good too, though...
Jamie Garcia Fernandez
Jaime is a 4th year medical student really interested in research and sports medicine. Currently training for an IronMan, Jaime has become really interested in how the body works under extreme conditions and can’t wait to explore this more at APEX! Outside of medicine, Jaime loves playing the guitar and basketball.
Jonathan Lang
Jonny is a 1st year medical student volunteering on Apex 6. He is looking forward to taking part in some fantastic research, discover a continent and improve on his Spanish skills. During his free time, he loves to cook, work in his vegetable garden and skate Bristo Square.
Sarah Barrie
Sarah is a second year medical student and is looking forward to lots of firsts with APEX6 – first time visiting South America, first time doing research and first time being at high altitude. She loves playing hockey, baking and learning BSL.
Ellie Johnson
Ellie is a fourth-year medical student, originally from Shetland. She completed my first three years of medicine in St Andrews. Outside of medicine, Ellie enjoys playing netball and hockey, and a bit of running. Ellie is looking forward to exploring the beautiful scenery in South America and the opportunity to meet more Edinburgh students too!
Grace Claxton
Grace is a fifth year medical student who enjoys hillwalking, sailing and cooking. She is looking forward to getting involved in the APEX6 research and exploring South America for the first time.
Karolina Futera
Karolina is a third-year medic, currently intercalating in psychology. She can often be found out on a run, playing volleyball (back when it was allowed), and perfecting her multiple lemon cake recipes. She loves travelling, having visited 31 countries so far, and is very excited to explore Bolivia and take part in research!
Chris McColm
Chris is a sixth year medical student with an interest in sports medicine and surgery. Outside of medicine he loves all things sport, especially cycling – this is what he’ll miss most on the APEX6 trip! Having never visited South America before he can’t wait to get out there to explore.
Thomas Park
Tom is a third-year medical student at the University of Edinburgh. He is looking forward to getting his first real taste of medical research, and for it to happen in such an amazing place. In his spare time, he’s often found on a run, on a bike or in the kitchen.
Gemma Woodhead
Gemma is a fourth-year medic who loves the outdoors and enjoys cycling and running. Having never visited South America before, she is really excited to be a part of APEX6 and looking forward to exploring this part of the world!
Amy Lussiana
Amy is a third year medical student at the University of Edinburgh. She spends most of her free time playing volleyball, dancing bachata or cooking Italian food for potlucks. She’s a keen traveller but APEX 6 will be her first time in South America!
Eilish Murphy
Eilish is a fourth year medical student, currently intercalating in primary care. When not working in the North face shop, she enjoys being outdoors, particularly in the high mountains. She can’t wait to head out to Bolivia and be part of the APEX6 expedition.
Cameron Peattie
Cameron is a second year medical student interested in sports and expedition medicine and orthopaedics. Cameron loves the outdoors and travelling, and has always wanted to travel in South America so can't wait for the expedition. Outside of medicine, Cameron loves most sports including football and basketball and loves music.
Danial Imseeh
Daniel is a second year medical student volunteering for APEX 6. He loves to travel, dabble with magic, and practice with his Bo-staff. He is very excited to see South America for the first time, and is keen on practicing the 3 years’ worth of Spanish that he forgot.
Robbie McLaren
Robbie is a fourth year medical student currently intercalating in Health Sciences-Academic Medicine. He first heard about the APEX expeditions a few years ago and have been really keen to go on one since. Outside of uni he love being outdoors with interests in running, cycling, mountaineering, skiing… the list goes on!
Isla Petrie
Isla is a third year medical student and is looking forward to her first apex expedition to Bolivia. She is excited to explore South America and gain first hand experience into the research and the data collection process. She is keen to develop her Spanish and fitness on the beautiful hikes across the South American vista.
Ella Crowther
Ella is a third year medical student (unfortunately that’s not her degree in the picture!). Outside of medicine, she likes riding ponies and playing the violin at a questionable standard. She loves the outdoors and is very excited about getting to explore completely new scenery, having never been to South America before!
Heather McAdam
Hi! I’m Heather, a fourth year medical student intercalating in Global Health Policy. Alongside my studies, I enjoy advocating for better mental health and wellbeing through research, volunteering and running a peer support group. I am also a keen traveller, having travelled through over 50 countries via tuk tuk, slow boat, kayak and more! South America is the only continent I have not visited and I am keen to learn about a new mix of cultures there.
Louisa Cary
I’m a fifth-year medical student, with an interest in space medicine. I love traveling (hopefully out of this atmosphere in the near future!) and climbing. This will be my first time in South America- I’m excited to join this amazing group to see all that it has to offer.
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ENDORSEMENTS

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Tom Avery

One of the UK's foremost explorers

"I am proud to support APEX 6. The Bolivian mountains are amongst the more beautiful in the world, but they are also a real test of human endurance. The work of the APEX6 team will be invaluable in gaining better understanding of the effects of altitude on the human body.  I wish them a safe and successful expedition."

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Sir Chris Bonington

British Mountaineer

“I am delighted to endorse APEX 6. APEX has been hugely successful over the past years, with much exciting research being done into the intricate effects of altitude and hypoxia on the human body. This year, students will take on this challenge once again, with a further aim of collaborating with local Bolivian researchers. The group have my full support, and I wish them all the best on this journey.”

SPONSORSHIP AND GRANTS 

APEX 5 has been fortunate to be sponsored by the following organisations. We thank all of our sponsors for their continued support for our expedition.

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Chris McColm

Chris is a sixth year medical student with an interest in sports medicine and surgery. Outside of medicine he loves all things sport, especially cycling – this is what he’ll miss most on the APEX6 trip! Having never visited South America before he can’t wait to get out there to explore.