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Tibetan Nomad Family. | by reurinkjan
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Tibetan Nomad Family.

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“High Altitude” Genes Discovered


Think that living at high altitude just takes some acclimation? ...Well, the Tibetans have you beat because they actually have genes that the rest of us do not have, genes which allow them to live at such high altitudes without compromising their bodily functions.


For the majority of us adjusting to altitude, where the atmosphere is very thin and oxygen levels are low, requires our bodies to produce more red blood cells in order to bind and circulate the oxygen needed to maintain normal body function.


However, this causes a problem. More red blood cells lead to blood that is too thick and viscous, a condition known as polycythemia, which can cause clots. However, Tibetans don’t develop high red blood cell counts, nor do they experience other symptoms of altitude sickness such as swelling of the lungs and brain. As more research is done to investigate the genetic role of such adaptations, knowledge may arise which can lead to novel methods of disease treatment.


The study is published online in ScienceExpress by researchers from the University of Utah School of Medicine and Qinghai University Medical School. [via HealthDay]

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Taken on September 6, 2010