It is estimated that over 140 million people live above 2500m in various regions of the world. There are many challenges to living at high altitude, but chronic hypoxic exposure is prominent among them. How well healthy humans adapt to hypoxia depends upon the severity of exposure and their genetic background. Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a complication of life at high altitude. Its severity varies between individuals and there is evidence for genetic adaptation. PH together with increased erythropoiesis, place an increased pressure load on the right ventricle. This reduces exercise capacity and can lead to heart failure and premature death. Understanding the factors that enable adaptation to hypoxia could provide insight into strategies and novel therapies that might not only facilitate adaptation and improve health in high altitude residents but also improve the management of hypoxic illness at lower altitudes.
From November 24th to 26th 2014, the first SinoGerman workshop on “Pathomechanisms of High Altitude Pulmonary Hypertension and Genetic Basis of Adaption to High Altitude Hypoxia” was held at the Excellence Cluster Cardio-Pulmonary Systems (ECCPS), University of Giessen, Germany. This workshop was funded by the Sino-German Center for Research Promotion, and co-organized by Professor Hossein Ardeschir Ghofrani of University of Giessen, Germany and Professor Chaoying Cui of Tibet University, China. The main objective of this meeting was to bring together German and Chinese scientists with a common interest and complementary expertise in pulmonary vascular biology and high altitude life to develop a joint collaborative programme to better understand the genetic and environmental factors contributing to high altitude PH.
Before the workshop started, Prof. Werner Seeger and Prof. Hossein Ardeschir Ghofrani of University of Giessen, gave an introduction of the aims and objectives of this meeting and provided an overview of the main research activities at the ECCPS. Prof. Leshen Chen introduced the Sino-German Center for Research Promotion and explained the funding schemes of the German Research Foundation. During the workshop, experts and scholars from universities and research institutions in Germany and China, with some prominent international invited speakers from Switzerland, Chile and Belgium, presented their findings and had scientific discussions that addressed major research and clinical topics in the field of PH and high altitude medicine and biology.
The workshop covered a vast range of topics, including genetics of adaptation to high altitude, pathophysiology and molecular mechanisms of pulmonary hypertension in humans and animals, epidemiology and clinical aspects of high altitude diseases. The workshop provided an excellent platform to connect top researchers from German and Chinese universities and research institutions, with some prominent international invited speakers and fostered several scientific collaborations between the leading scientists from Germany and China. The workshop has achieved its goal of forming research partnerships and identifying specific research topics in the area of PH and high altitude medicine and biology. The workshop has been a gratifying opportunity to strengthen the interaction between China and Germany in this research area that has not only local and national significance, but is also of great global importance. We envision this partnership to develop into a long-term collaborative research initiative for the next three to five years.