NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The University of Colorado School of Medicine will use a $1.5 million grant from the Department of Defense to study the molecular basis of how people acclimatize to high altitudes in order to find a way to overcome acute mountain sickness (AMS).
The DOD grant to UC's Altitude Research Center will support genomics-based studies to discover how genes and proteins interact on a cellular level at high altitude to learn how the body combats the low oxygen levels that cause AMS, UC Denver said Monday.
Long-term, the aim of this research is to use this knowledge to develop new drugs to improve how humans perform in places where oxygen is limited and to prevent and treat diseases caused by lack of oxygen. AMS can cause dizziness, excessive thirst, fatigue, nausea, sleeplessness, and swelling of the brain.
"We recently showed that when people spent 10 hours in a high-altitude, low-oxygen environment a number of genes and proteins were turned on, and after 32 days of low oxygen in mice, more than 500 genes were turned off and on," Altitude Research Center Director Robert Roach said in a statement.
"We believe the immediate impact of these studies will be to save lives and improve the performance of those fighting at high altitude," Roach added. "But in the long term, we hope it will lead to new discoveries that can benefit those who suffer from low oxygen states, whether they live and work at high altitude or have heart, lung or other diseases at any altitude."