When you click on theAlpkit Foundation, you're currently greeted by the smiling faces of a group of medical students, high on the summit of Chacaltaya in the mountains of Bolivia. This shot, taken by Alistair Rocke, captures the APEX 4 high-altitude medical expedition back in 2014. Well, time flies and this another team of students are heading back to Bolivia to build on the research conducted by their predecessors. APEX 5 aims to further our understanding of human physiology at high altitude, including adaptation to hypoxia (low oxygen), and inspire and develop the next generation of clinical academics by providing a safe, well-organised, and rewarding expedition for student volunteers. Through blood sampling, vision tests, questionnaires, and eye vessel imaging, the research will explore human response to hypoxia relating toimmunology (the immune response), coagulation (how well blood clots), psychology, and vision, amongst others.
The Apex 5 organising committee
Team member Becky Dru explains a little more about the expedition:
"We will begin by testing volunteers at sea level (in Edinburgh) to compare findings to tests performed during and after acclimatisation to high altitude - when the body is adapting to hypoxia. By encouraging student volunteers to participate in and assist with our research, we hope to inspire and nurture tomorrow’s researchers."
This dedication to the development of young scientists was also an important element of APEX 4, and three members of the previous project's research team will be involved with the expedition once more, this time as members of the Organising Committee.
The work doesn't finish when the expedition is over: the researchers will be required to present their results to a medical and lay audience, as Becky explains:
"Our novel research will reveal more about human response and adaptation to high altitude. Findings will not only be applicable to people ascending to high altitude - around 100 million people per year – but also to patients around the world with low blood oxygen, including the critically ill and patients with common conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease."
The expedition is geared at encouraging students to get involved with the ambitious research. Student volunteers will not only have the opportunity for professional development, learning research skills, participating in pioneering research, and delivering results that have the potential to affect millions of people worldwide. It will also lead to the progression of a generation of young students to become the expedition leaders of tomorrow, and the expedition team will be engaging with local schools, delivering presentations and workshops to encourage an interest in science from an early age.
We look forward to hearing how they get on.
The Alpkit Foundationsupports projects that enable people to overcome the obstacles preventing them from Going Nice Places and Doing Good Things.