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Pressure and Density of the Atmosphere

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Not Enough Oxygen
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Not Enough Oxygen

Credit: Bernard Goldbach
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mount_Everest_(topgold).jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Medical researchers want to find out how the human body can better use oxygen when it is in short supply. They hope that the work will help critically ill patients who are having trouble breathing. So the team spent months at the climbers’ base camp on Mt. Everest!

Why It Matters

Credit: Mahatma4711
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/india-nepal-iran/215827015
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Mount Everest Base Camp [Figure2]

Critically ill people, such as pneumonia patients, often die because they can’t take in enough oxygen. Medical researchers set out to understand how the body works when oxygen is low. So they lived and worked for months where there is only half as much oxygen as there is at sea level. Mount Everest base camp is at an altitude of 17,500 feet (5300 meters). Besides the challenging breathing, the research facility is frigid cold and built on moving ice. The doctors are hoping to learn something they can’t learn anywhere else: How does the human body react to a low oxygen environment?

Explore More

With the links below, learn about the medical research that took place at the Mount Everest base camp. Then answer the questions that follow.

  1. What happens to the human body when there is less oxygen?
  2. Why is important for the researchers to study the Sherpas as well as the foreigners?
  3. What do mitochondria do?
  4. What have the researchers discovered about the Sherpas physiology?
  5. What benefit could people gain from this research?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Bernard Goldbach; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mount_Everest_(topgold).jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Mahatma4711; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/india-nepal-iran/215827015; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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