Effect of developmental and ancestral high altitude exposure on chest morphology and pulmonary function in Andean and European/North American natives

Tom D. Brutsaert, Rudy Soria, Esperanza Caceres, Hilde Spielvogel, Jere D. Haas

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57 Scopus citations


Chest depth, chest width, forced vital capacity (FVC), and forced expiratory volume (FEV1) were measured in 170 adult males differing by ancestral (genetic) and developmental exposure to high altitude (HA). A complete migrant study design was used to study HA natives (Aymara/Quechua ancestry, n = 88) and low altitude (LA) natives (European/North American ancestry, n = 82) at both altitude (La Paz, Bolivia, 3,600 m) and near sea level (Santa Cruz, Bolivia, 420 m). HAN and LAN migrant groups were classified as: Nth generation migrants, born and raised in a non-native environment; child migrants who migrated during the period of growth and maturation (0-18 yrs); and adult migrants who migrated after 18 years of age. Chest depth, FVC, and FEV1 measures were larger with increasing developmental exposure in both HAN migrants at LA and LAN migrants at HA. Developmental responses were similar between HAN and LAN groups. FVC and FEV1 measures were larger in HANs vs LANs born and raised at HA to suggest a genetic effect, but were similar in HANs and LANs born and raised at LA. The similarity of HAN and LAN groups at LA suggests that the genetic potential for larger lung volumes at HA depends upon developmental exposure to HA. Additional data for females (HANs at HA, n = 20, and LAN adult migrants to HA, n = 17) show similar differences as those shown between male HAN and LAN groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-395
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Genetics

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