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ACSM In The News

ACSM is fortunate to be the go-to source on sports medicine and exercise science for several national and international media outlets. You can find some of our most recent coverage below, or you can view archived articles.  

Medical Students Climb Everest to Study Immunity

by User Not Found | Aug 01, 2011
Team explored how bodies’ immune responses fared in extreme altitude

SEATTLE – Mountain climbers and adventurers who aspire to ascent Mount Everest have more information on immune function and the onset of acute mountain sickness (AMS), thanks to research presented today at the 56th Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Seattle. A team of medical students climbed to Everest Base Camp in order to find physical factors that would reveal information about illness severity in association with immune and hormonal responses to high-altitude exposure.

“TeamEverest” included a group of 51 full-time medical students from Royal Free and University College Medical School (RUMS),  London. In 2007, the team climbed together to the Everest Base Camp height of 18,500 feet.  In addition to their data quest, the team raised funds for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity in London.

The expedition was designed to be one of the largest field studies to investigate the effects of AMS across all physiological systems.   For this climb, the students examinedvarious high-altitude related physiological factors combined with high exposure to ultraviolet radiation, different strains of common pathogens, crowding, sub-optimal personal hygiene, sleep disturbance, and harsh environmental conditions.  These factors were compared to how they may impair immune function and contribute to AMS, a condition caused by acute exposure to rapidly decreasing oxygen levels found at high altitudes.

The medical students, 26 male and 25 female, were monitored for illness severity (including upper respiratory tract [URT], gastrointestinal, and oral symptoms), mood and sleep disturbance, perceived exertion, muscle soreness, and concentrations of salivary secretions daily during their 15-day trek.

Most students experienced illnesses related to URT and oral symptoms, which increased with the altitude. Conversely, salivary secretions decreased, while perceived exertion increased.  Based on this, the researchers theorize the suppression of the hormone cortisol (in saliva) and the increase severity of URT symptoms predispose climbers to the development of AMS.

The team further expects this work to help gain a better understanding of how healthy bodies acclimatize to extreme altitudes, as well as what implications may hold for exploring uses to help patients with illness or disability.

“Medical students are, by nature, explorers of the human body and its boundaries and opportunities,” said Lygeri Dimitriou, Ph.D., lead author of the study. “This expedition with these climbers was their chance to be there in person, instead of third-party examiners of data coming back to them.  These future clinicians generated some data that will provide aseries of simple objective measurementsthat can be used by mountaineers to easilyassess the severity of AMS symptoms.”

For more information on the TeamEverest experience, visit www.teameverest.org.uk.

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The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 35,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only, and should not be construed as an official statement of the  American College of Sports Medicine.

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