Why are high altitude natives so strong at high altitude? Nature vs. nurture: Genetic factors vs. growth and development

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter

27 Scopus citations


Among high-altitude natives there is evidence of a general hypoxia tolerance leading to enhanced performance and/or increased capacity in several important domains. These domains likely include an enhanced physical work capacity, an enhanced reproductive capacity, and an ability to resist several common pathologies of chronic high-altitude exposure. The “strength” of the high-altitude native in this regard may have both a developmental and a genetic basis, although there is better evidence for the former (developmental effects) than for the latter. For example, early-life hypoxia exposure clearly results in lung growth and remodeling leading to an increased O2 diffusing capacity in adulthood. Genetic research has yet to reveal a population genetic basis for enhanced capacity in high-altitude natives, but several traits are clearly under genetic control in Andean and Tibetan populations e.g., resting and exercise arterial O2 saturation (SaO2). This chapter reviews the effects of nature and nurture on traits that are relevant to the process of gas exchange, including pulmonary volumes and diffusion capacity, the maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max), the SaO2, and the alveolar-arterial oxygen partial pressure difference (A-aDO2) during exercise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
PublisherSpringer New York LLC
Number of pages12
StatePublished - 2016

Publication series

NameAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
ISSN (Print)0065-2598
ISSN (Electronic)2214-8019


  • Andes
  • Developmental response
  • Exercise
  • Gas exchange
  • Genetic adaptation
  • Himalayas
  • Hypoxia
  • Pulmonary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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