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Heights and haematology: the story of haemoglobin at altitude
  1. Jeremy S Windsor1,
  2. George W Rodway2
  1. 1Centre for Aviation, Space and Extreme Environment Medicine (CASE), University College London, London, UK
  2. 2Center for Sleep and Respiratory Neurobiology, University of Pennsylvania Schools of Medicine and Nursing, Philadelphia, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Jeremy S Windsor
 Centre for Aviation, Space and Extreme Environment Medicine (CASE), University College London, Archway Campus, Whittington Hospital, Archway, London N19 5NF, UK; jswindsor{at}doctors.org.uk

Abstract

In order to compensate for the low partial pressure of oxygen at altitude, the human body undergoes a number of physiological changes. A vital component in this process is the increase in the concentration of circulating haemoglobin. The role of HIF-1α, erythropoietin and red blood cells in this acclimatisation process is described, together with the fall in plasma volume that increases the concentration of haemoglobin in the early stages of hypoxic exposure.

  • CMS, chronic mountain sickness
  • EPO, erythropoietin
  • HIF-1α, hypoxia inducible factor-1α
  • HVR, hypoxic ventilatory response
  • VHL protein, Von Hippel Lindau protein
  • altitude
  • erythropoietin
  • haemoglobin
  • hypoxia inducible factor
  • polycythaemia

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Footnotes

  • Competing interests: None.

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