Altitude simulator helps accelerate research cycle 

31/07/2014 00:00 
A chamber simulating high-altitude conditions is helping researchers at the Institute of Sports, Exercise and Health (ISEH) to push forward research on how intensive care patients could recover faster and spend less time in hospital.

Hypoxic chambers have been used for some time in top-flight sports training to test athletes’ limits. Now researchers at the ISEH are benefitting from the Institute’s own chamber, which is being used by academics such as the Xtreme Everest expedition team.

The chamber allows researchers to reduce oxygen levels to examine in-depth how the body takes on and uses oxygen, providing valuable insights into how intensive care patients – who have lower oxygen levels – can be helped in the future.

That means findings from Xtreme Everest’s two high-altitude expeditions in 2007 and 2013 can now be replicated and built upon in ISEH’s purpose-built facilities.

The ISEH is a collaboration between leading health, academic and sports organisations – UCLH, UCL, British Olympic Association, English Institute of Sport and private hospital group HCA – which have come together to provide patients with care and expertise levels previously only available to elite athletes.

The Institute is an integral part of the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine and houses research, teaching and training in sport and exercise medicine and related fields. Its state-of-the-art equipment includes eight consulting rooms, 3T MR imaging, ultrasound, X-ray and interventional treatment rooms.

Professor Monty Mythen, Director of the Discovery Lab and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board at the ISEH, said: “The installation of the hypoxic chamber is providing valuable insights into how we can improve recovery for intensive care patients in the future. Ultimately we’re aiming to reduce deaths and boost recovery, meaning patients need spend less time in hospital.”

Xtreme Everest is collaboration between University College London, University of Southampton and Duke University USA. The team’s 2013 expedition studied normal healthy people in the low-oxygen environment of Everest, taking 60 different measurements from 200 people at three varying levels of altitude.

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