ROCHESTER, Minn. — March 22, 2012. It's a natural laboratory for studying heart disease, lung problems, muscle loss, sleeping disorders and new medical technologies. It's also the highest mountain in the world. Mount Everest's extreme altitude puts climbers under the same conditions experienced by patients suffering from heart disease, obesity or advanced age. To take advantage of that, Mayo Clinic researchers are joining an expedition to Everest with National Geographic, The North Face and Montana State University. The Mayo group will monitor up to nine climbers from base camp for the duration of the climb, which will run from mid-April to mid-May.
VIDEO ALERT: Additional audio and video resources, including excerpts from an interview with Dr. Johnson describing the research, are available on the Mayo Clinic News Blog.
"We can simulate some conditions in oxygen tents and hyperbaric chambers, but only for short periods," says Bruce Johnson, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic physiologist and leader of the scientific expedition. "We're studying the effects of extreme altitude on healthy, active individuals as well as these extreme athletes because what they experience mimics aspects of heart disease."
Dr. Johnson, who has conducted research at the South Pole and other mountain ranges, will be joined by three other Mayo investigators: physician-researcher Doug Summerfield, M.D., and scientists Bryan Taylor, Ph.D., and Amine Issa, Ph.D. Mayo Clinic also will send its own reporter to cover the research expedition. Joel Streed of the Mayo Clinic News Network will blog and shoot video from base camp. The coverage can be followed at www.MayoCliniconEverest.com, and on Twitter at #MayoClinic #onEverest.
The expedition and other research initiatives are part of Mayo's work to transform medical care. The data generated by the expedition is expected to provide new insights into aging patients and heart disease, and help Mayo develop high-quality, affordable options for patients who need cardiac monitoring.