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Nitric oxide research: reaching new heights

Paper: Levett DZ, Fernandez BO, Riley HL, Martin DS, Mitchell K, Leckstrom CA, Ince C, Whipp BJ, Mythen MG, Montgomery HE, Grocott MP, Feelisch M, for the Caudwell Extreme Everest Research Group. The role of nitrogen oxides in human adaptation to hypoxia. Scientific Reports 2011;1:109 Read paper online (PDF Document)

In collaboration with a team from University College London, Professor Martin Feelisch has studied the bodily responses of individuals who normally live at sea level as they become exposed to increasing levels of hypoxia induced by climbing to high altitudes (Mount Everest). By analysing the content of nitric oxide (NO) and its metabolites in the blood of these climbers, it was shown that one of the adaptations to the lack of oxygen is elevated production of NO.

This can be rationalised in terms of the vasodilatory effects NO and its metabolites have. Indeed, populations who live permanently on the Tibetan plateau are known to have evolved ways of optimizing NO action. These observations may be of clinical significance, especially for acutely ill patients suffering from an impaired oxygen delivery to their tissues.

The work of the Everest 2007 Expedition study suggests that strategies aimed at improving NO production may present an opportunity to develop new pharmacological strategies aimed at improving tissue oxygenation in critically ill patients.

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