Understanding adaptation to altitude in the Andean region


   For decades, research has been carried out to understand adaptation of human populations to high altitude. A major goal has been to compare how populations with a long history of residence at high altitude and populations with no history of adaptation to high-altitude respond to hypoxia (low oxygen concentration). This research aims to understand the role of natural selection in the adaptation process, and the physiological pathways involved. Two populations that have been commonly studied in this research are the Aymara and Quechua form the Andean Plateau. These populations have been living at high-altitude for more than 10,000 years. Numerous studies have been devoted to the physiological patterns of adaptation to hypoxia of these populations. We have been collaborating for some time with researchers doing important work in this area: Lorna Moore (Wake Forest University), Tom Brutsaert (Syracuse University) and Abby Bigham (University of Michigan). This research has explored many different aspects of adaptation to altitude in the Andean region, including the potential mechanisms driving this adaptation, the role of candidate genes, such as the Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE), on relevant phenotypes, and the identification of genes showing signatures of natural selection that could potentially explain the unique physiological patterns observed, not only in Andeans, but also in other high-altitude populations, such as Tibetans. Please see the list of publications for more information about this topic.