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Xtreme Alps Research Goals

More than 20% of us will end up critically ill on an intensive care unit at some time in our lives. Here, the sickest patients in a hospital are cared for by a specialist team of clinicians. Hypoxia (a lack of oxygen) is a problem in nearly all of these patients, regardless of their underlying illness, and is responsible for a significant proportion of deaths in these patients. Seeking new methods for the successful treatment of hypoxia has proven difficult over the years and remains a challenge for today?s critical care specialists.

At the UCL Centre for Altitude, Space and Extreme Environment Medicine we have chosen to study the effects of hypoxia by studying healthy volunteers at high altitude. Our flagship project, Caudwell Xtreme Everest (CXE) 2007, was the largest high altitude study ever undertaken and is generating results that will benefit critically ill patients in the long term.

However, the results have also generated more questions, that require investigation. In particular, the team wish to trial a dietary supplement that they believe will improve humans tolerance of hypoxia. This is based not only on results from the 2007 expedition, but also studies carried out in laboratories by collaborators. This is the first time that this supplement will have been tested in humans at high altitude to improve their tolerance of hypoxia. They aim to carry out this trial by ascending to the Margherita Hut, at 4559m in the Alps, and studying each other as they are exposed again to hypoxia. The results may transform the way in which hypoxia is treated in critically ill patients.

Investigators will consist of members and collaborators of UCL CASE Medicine. Many of these investigators are experienced field investigators from previous CASE field studies at high altitude. Each study will have a nominated lead investigator; and an overall research leader will manage these investigators. Other investigators will provide assistance in the laboratory during studies. Lead investigators, under the guidance of the research leader, will be responsible for ethical committee approval of all studies, along with subject recruitment and safe conduct of experiments in the field.