Monday, April 15, 2019

Breathing on the Top of the World


Breathing on the Top of the World

On the Tibetan Plateau, nearly 14,000 ft above sea level, once lived a family at a site named Chusang. Bearing the weather baffles scientists itself not to mention that 1/3 of the amount of oxygen at these levels is not available. How then was it possible for them to breathe? Natural higher lung capacity, building up a physical resilience to high altitudes? The inhabitants of Tibet exert an amazing tolerance to high altitudes. Scientists have determined their answer lies within the genetic code. 

At first however, it was assumed that a change in the chest, barrel like shape, and other physical transformations would help compensate for the lungs inability to fully expand to inhale the needed oxygen. 

Several researchers, working independently of each other, all found that two genes, EPAS1 and EGLN1, already known to modulate hemoglobin levels in blood, stood out. Scientists now postulate that this blood altering gene that allows for more oxygen absorption into the blood has been passed down to Tibetans from another species. Interesting indeed.  

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