CASE Medicine
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NEWS: 12th Aug 2010
Linking systemic inflammation in critical illness and at high altitude

In this project we are asking the question: Do low oxygen levels at high altitude trigger the production of harmful inflammatory molecules similar to those seen in our patients in the intensive care unit? Because there are similarities between high altitude illness and other serious conditions, for example major trauma, burns and in particular acute pancreatitis, we want to see if the same harmful molecules are common to all these situations. By taking daily blood samples and gene samples from healthy volunteers and in particular focusing on how low oxygen levels alter the genes which control the white blood cells of the immune system, we can start to answer those questions. We will then measure changes in those genes as the volunteers ascend to high altitude, and as they acclimatise. This will allow us to develop better understanding and new therapies for our critically-ill patients.

Written by Damian Mole