Physiological and metabolic responses to prolonged hypoxia and extreme cold: Preliminary data from the White Mars Antarctica winter expedition
© O'Brien et al.; 2015
Published: 14 September 2015
The Antarctic winter is amongst the most extreme environments on earth. Human adaptation to this environment, where severe cold is coupled with moderate altitudes, is poorly understood. In this study, a number of physiological and metabolic measurements were made on a small group of trekkers before and after an attempted winter crossing of Antarctica (White Mars Expedition).
5 male subjects aged 28-54 yrs were assessed prior to and following a 24 week stay in Antarctica, including 14 weeks above 2,500 m. Measurements included assessment of body fat and bone mineral density (DXA), cardiorespiratory responses to an incremental exercise test, lung and cardiovascular function as well as metabolomic analysis of serum using 1H-NMR spectroscopy.
These results are suggestive of a number of physiological changes resulting from prolonged exposure to the Antarctic winter. In particular, we observed a change in metabolic signature involving changes to both glucose and fatty acid homeostasis with a shift towards increased reliance on carbohydrate metabolism during exercise.
This study has highlighted areas of interest for future investigations into the physiological responses to this unique environment.
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