High Altitude Task Force
Task force leaders
Qadar Pasha, India
Max Gassmann, Switzerland
Type of task force
2021 Annual Report
The 2nd Swiss-Kyrgyz High Altitude Medicine and Research Symposium, in Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic, 18 - 22, September 2021
Due to the Covid pandemic, the symposium, originally scheduled for September 2020, was postponed for one year and moved to a new location, the Khan Tengri Hotel in Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic. Despite these changes and the difficulties of the pandemic, the Task Force was very happy to report that the Symposium was very successful. Attendance exceeded all expectations, and the entire event ran smoothly as planned. The congress site offered an ideal atmosphere and infrastructure for the main scientific sessions and group discussions. In addition to providing an ideal environment for the scientific sessions, it also facilitated group discussions. Participants had high praise for the accessibility, the food, and the lodging. The Annual Congress of Kyrgyz Thoracic Society was held from September 16-18 in Naryn, making it possible for many participants to attend both meetings.
On day 1, participants visited the department of respiratory medicine at Bishkek's National Center of Cardiology and Internal Medicine. The researchers and clinicians visiting the centre were impressed by the highly skilled and motivated staff, the well-organised laboratories and clinical facilities, and the array of scientific and clinical activities taking place. This site visit provided a solid foundation for future discussions on international research cooperation.
The 2nd day was devoted to research and educational seminars on topics in (patho)physiology, general internal medicine, cardiology, respirology, and infectious diseases. These lectures provided updates on the latest scientific research as well as state-of-the-art insights. The day ended with a photo exhibition and a video presentation of projects and expeditions sponsored by the Swiss-Kyrgyz High Altitude Medicine and Research Initiative.
Lectures on day 3 covered recent research data on molecular mechanisms of physiological responses to hypoxia, priority issues and trends in medicine, as well as health challenges in remote and high-altitude areas such as prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation. The two complementary hybrid (virtual and on-site) sessions resulted in a great deal of international collaboration. The day concluded with the Opening Ceremony including welcome addresses by representatives of the Kyrgyz national and regional government including representation from the Minister of Health, and by leaders of academic and medical institutions. Interactions and networking among participants were strengthened by the gala dinner.
On day 4, the lectures focused on the hot topics on current research in the fields of high altitude medicine, the cardiovascular system including the pulmonary circulation, control of breathing, sleep in adults and children, and exercise in normoxic, hyperoxic and hypoxic conditions. A visit to the local community hospital in Naryn provided the opportunity to discuss with local clinicians and get an impression of the restrictions of health care resources in a rural areas. An evening session featured a video report on the Swiss women's climbing expedition in Kyrgyzstan at very high altitudes.
The Symposium concluded on day 5, with discussions on essential aspects of clinical trials and future research protocols. The symposium ended with farewell addresses and a positive outlook on future meetings.
The 2nd Swiss-Kyrgyz High Altitude Medicine and Research Symposium was a great success, with plenty of participation, scientific exchange, setting priorities for future research, developing research protocols and networking among international groups. Tremendous feedback was received from all participants and invited speakers who enjoyed the experience. Similar Symposia will be held regularly between 2-3 yearly intervals.
We thank all sponsors of this event for their generous contribution.
Organizers: Talant M. Sooronbaev, Konrad E. Bloch, Silvia Ulrich, Michael Furian, Norbert Weissmann & Max Gassmann
See here for the full programme
2020 Annual Report
This year has been a turbulent one with Covid-19 hitting the world hard. 2020 has been a memorable year, sadly for all the wrong reasons. September 18 - 22, 2021
It was the year that introduced us all to a new species of the Coronavirus which turned out to be deadly. Almost every activity of the world came to a standstill, including some aspects of scientific research. Thissignificantly affected output for this Task Force. Firstly the two planned face-to-face meetings in India and Kyrgyzstan had to be cancelled. This prompted the two organisers and PVRI to discuss the value of a coordinated approach in the future with one combined high altitude meeting from the Task Force each year henceforth.
Early this summer Max Gassmann visited the highest research facility in Switzerland, the Jungfraujoch Hut, located at an altitude of 3500m. Research planning there involved a project to keep human volunteers and animal models at that altitude for weeks to analyse the impact of high altitude on a variety of gene expressions. The Swiss high altitude research facility might be complementary to facilities in Leh (India), Puno (Peru), Lhasa (Tibet) and many other locations in the word and PVRI could coordinate joint research.
Project on gene drug development 2020 and acute exposure to altitude
Dr Qadar Pasha’s genetic study was awarded support for the next two years by The Cardiovascular Medical Research and Education Foundation, in Philadelphia, however work had been postponed due to the pandemic. His institute CSIR-IGIB which has received PVRI support decided to divert research time to the Coronavirus.
One important experiment looking at the effects of travelling from sea level to high altitude and back in a population of young volunteers was undertaken. The team of 35 youngsters, who volunteered for the drug based study where taken rapidly from sea level (Delhi) to high alititude (Leh) and back. The team were put through rigorous Coronavirus testing whilst visiting the Himalayan region and were able to achieve their desired goals without any unwarranted events. Clinical observations, Lake Louise score, chest-radiography and echo were all recorded, along with blood samples. The volunteers greatly enjoyed the visit to Leh and everyone conveyed their wish to be a part of any future research activity allowing them to re-visit.
Coronavirus effect in Ladakh, the Himalayan highland
Despite the high altitude environment of Ladakh, like most counties it could not escape the grasp of the Coronavirus.
Reports from other similar highland regions of South America had suggested that the native people are resistant to Covid-19. Minimal travel, and maximum precautions coupled with sanitisation will prevent the spread of infection and these are more likely causes for that highland region. The virus appears to be resistant to any extreme environment and all our observations suggest that the clinical effects of Covid-19 are the same at high altitude as sea level.
Research activities in this period
Naturally every academic come researcher focused their attention on to the Coronavirus, stalling ongoing research, with everyone actively sharing their own knowledge on the virus whether or not their expertise was in the microbiology and virology field. Official websites including the WHO have done a commendable job sharing information and protecting lives. Even PVRIs own Task Force leader Dr Qadar Pasha devoted three months of his time assembling knowledge on the Corona virus, and subsequently producing a couple of manuscripts,one of which was published.
This year, a visit was made to Leh in February and the venue and programme was finalised for the 6th International Leh Symposium, which had to be postponed. The next date will be in August or September 2021 and hopefully the venue will be the Mahabodhi Global Family Resort in the serene surrounding of the model village Saboo Dho, near Leh, where they organised their scientific expedition.
Two reviews from us in 2020.
Sex-derived attributes to SARS-CoV-2 fatality in co-morbid patients
Neha Chanana, Tsering Palmo, Kavita Sharma†, Rahul Kumar, Brian Graham, Qadar Pasha. AM J Physiol Endo&Met 2020
Vascular homoeostasis at high altitude: role of genetic variants and transcription factors.
Neha Chanana, Tsering Palmo, John H Newman and M.A Qadar Pasha. Pul Circa 2020
2019 Annual Report
This year, the PVRI High-Altitude Task Force has been very active in scientific interactions. It participated in the 12th Annual World Congress of the International Society of Mountain Medicine in Nepal. It is important to emphasise that most of the participants were young women researchers and scientists. Their exposure was part of their educational training and skill development.
In addition to their active participation in the scientific presentations, they interacted with several imminent researchers in the field. Another significant development was the participation from Defence organisations, especially the Defence Institute of Physiology & Allied Sciences (DIPAS), Delhi, India.
It was an opportunity for my DIPAS colleagues, and several of our PVRI friends, to interact and share scientific interests. Dr Aastha Mishra, a PVRI member who delivered a talk in one of the sessions, was considered one of the best young speakers by the international jury and was awarded for her excellent work.
Among other young researchers, Drs Manjari Rain, Kavita Sharma; Tsering Palmo and Manjula Miglani, all provided either oral or poster presentations on high altitude pulmonary hypertension.
Dr Qadar Pasha was assigned responsibility to organise and chair a special session on high altitude research activities by the ISMM scientific committee, as well as delivering in another session. Dr Max Gassmann also delivered a very dynamic and well-received presentation.
Other meetings & conferences
Dr Qadar Pasha was invited to participate and deliver talks in the following two international conferences:
- The PRVI 13th Annual World Congress on Pulmonary Vascular Disease, Barcelona, in January 2019.
- The Grover Conference, under American Thoracic Society (ATS), on ‘Pulmonary Vasculature in Lung Development, Homeostasis, Injury, Repair and Aging’, at Lost Valley Ranch Sedalia, Denver, USA, in September 2019.
It is with mixed feelings that we announce Dr Ghulam Mohammad’s retirement after 30 years of dedicated service to his patients. He was a Senior Consultant and Head of Department of Medicine at the Sonam Nurboo Memorial Hospital (SNM) Hospital, Leh, Ladakh. He was one of our most active PVRI family members from India, a great friend and a crucial collaborator in our high-altitude pulmonary hypertension research.
Colleagues at the SNM Hospital gave him a befitting farewell. We salute our colleague for his great contribution to the medical field and scientific initiatives. His contribution has also been enormous in arranging the volunteer subjects at the hospital, whether controls or patients, of HAPE (high-altitude pulmonary edema).
He was highly instrumental in developing the ‘High-altitude Research Lab’ at the SNM Hospital, and continues to carry out his private clinic work, as well as having also joined other private hospitals in Leh, as a Consultant. We wish him a healthy and beautiful life ahead and every success in his professional activities.
‘The 6th International Leh Symposium’ is to be organised in September 2020, at the most scenic and equally most peaceful land of Buddha, Leh, Ladakh, India. Further details will be available on the PVRI website in due course, but we invite our all PVRI family members and colleagues from other fields to attend this event.