Everest climbers in test for keys to heart treatment

KATHMANDU Fri Apr 20, 2012 4:05pm IST

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - A team of U.S. scientists departed on Friday to conduct research on Mount Everest climbers in an effort to further knowledge of the cardiovascular system at extreme altitudes and help improve treatment for heart and lung patients.

Bruce Johnson, a consultant on cardiovascular diseases at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and leader of the group, said the study subjects will be a U.S. team that plans to replicate the first 1963 ascent of the mountain by a U.S. team.

That expedition put five U.S. climbers on the summit, two climbing the difficult and then-untested West Ridge route and the rest along the normal Southeast Ridge route which was used by New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in their pioneering 1953 ascent.

Nearly 3,700 people have climbed Mount Everest, the world's highest peak at 8,850 metres (29,035 feet), since then.

"We are interested in lung physiology in high altitude, which is similar to the lung physiology in heart failure patients," Johnson told Reuters in Kathmandu, equipment scattered around him.

Johnson said each of the nine climbers, who are already at the mountain acclimatising, will be fitted with equipment including a special wrist watch and an arm band that will allow their body to be monitored at a base camp laboratory.

The watch will measure the blood oxygen level and the specially designed arm band will show their energy expenditure and how many calories they burn.

Climbers will also be wearing the "Mayo platform," an instrument devised by the clinic that fits in a tiny pocket on the climber's clothing and will measure their cardiovascular activity, Johnson said.

Specially developed video games will also be used to test the cognitive performance of climbers, such as their ability to think at high altitude, where oxygen levels are low.

The team will set up a lab in a dome-shaped tent at the base camp, which becomes a tent city during the climbing season.

Medical research has been carried out on Mount Everest climbers in the past, and Johnson said what his team was doing would add "some incremental bits of knowledge" to the working of the human body in extreme conditions.

"The study is also very closely associated with the work we do back home with heart patients and patients with lung diseases," Johnson said.

He said the study would also add to knowledge about altitude sickness, which is a leading cause of death in high mountains.

More than 300 foreign climbers and another 400 Sherpa guides have gathered at the base camp located at about 5,300 metres (17,390 feet) to climb Mount Everest during the current climbing season which started in March.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma, editing by Elaine Lies and Paul Casciato)

FILED UNDER:

SAARC Summit

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Rate Cut

Rate Cut

Markets pricing in rate cut, despite wary RBI.  Full Article 

Global Trade Deal

Global Trade Deal

WTO postpones trade deal by a day after last-minute objection.  Full Article 

Tax Dispute

Tax Dispute

India advised against challenging Vodafone tax ruling - source.  Full Article 

Racial Riots

Racial Riots

National Guard, police curb Ferguson unrest as protests swell across U.S.  Full Article 

Land Acquisitions

Land Acquisitions

Disputes over land for industry on the rise in India, angering locals - charities.  Full Article 

Scrubbing Results

Scrubbing Results

EU watchdogs to apply 'right to be forgotten' rule on Web worldwide.  Full Article 

Special Report

Special Report

Putin's allies channelled billions to Ukraine oligarch.  Full Article 

Flashback: 26/11 attacks

Flashback: 26/11 attacks

The three-day attack in November 2008 left 166 dead.  Slideshow 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage