July 15, 2013
Mountain Might Man was genetically engineered to thrive at high altitude. He is a methodically constructed amalgam of spiced genes taken from humans and animals that were evolved to thrive in extreme hypoxia. Think Sherpa meets dolphin meets Chuck Norris. When he is not rescuing climbers from Himalayan peaks, he can be found spearfishing in the depths of The Atlantic Ocean…..both without supplemental oxygen. Each aspect of his physiology enables him to accomplish these extreme feats of hypoxia and sheds light on how we may improve our ability to tolerate the thin air.
1. Superhuman Lung Capacity and Alveoli Concentration
Larger lungs with more “diffusing capacity” enable Mountain Might Man to drive more oxygen into his blood stream with every breath. This trait was extracted from gene pools of native populations of the Andes, who have become adapted to the 13,000 ft+ (3,962 m) dwellings of successive generations. Though at adulthood, the number of alveoli we have are fixed, we can expand our lung capacities significantly by stretching out intercoastal muscles and using a technique called “lung packing.”
2. Magnified Mitochondrial and Capillary Density
The muscle tissue of Mountain Might Man is ingrained with a significantly higher number of mitochondria and blood vessels than the average human. Increases in these two aspects of infrastructure of cellular oxygen delivery and respiration are sometimes seen in altitude training studies. However, they are not consistently reported and have been linked to a decline in overall muscle mass. Intermittent hypoxic training (IHT) is likely the best method to gain these advantages. Supplementation of a compound called resveratrol may also increase levels of mitochondria in our cells.
3. Nitric Oxide Synthase Enzyme Proliferation
Nitrate synthases are the most important enzymes for the production of nitric oxide. This molecule is a potent vasodilator, is synthesized at extremely high levels in Tibetan Sherpas, and has been used to treat a deadly altitude illness called pulmonary edema (HAPE). For these reasons, drinking beetroot juice, which contains high levels of nitrates is an excellent remedy for high altitude sickness and improving high altitude performance.
4. Unbreakable Sodium Potassium Pump Integrity
Sodium potassium pumps regulate the transport of fluid in and out of our cells. Strong sodium potassium pumps in muscles are associated with the ability to recover faster from high training volume workouts such as marathons. When these pumps are strong in the pulmonary blood vessels, it helps prevent deadly fluid leakage characteristic of HAPE. There may be no effective way to strengthen potassium pumps located throughout our pulmonary tree.
5. Muscle Myoglobin Ubiquity
Similar to hemoglobin, myglobin are iron rich molecules found in muscles that serve as localized oxygen stores. The muscles of dolphins, animals capable of staying underwater for up to an hour, are jam packed with myglobin. The development of new myoglobin is also a long-term component of altitude acclimatization that free divers also attempt to achieve with a practice known as apnea training.
6. Structural Modifications to Pulmonary Blood Vessels
For this important physiological adaptation, we were forced to splice genes from the beloved Himalyan Yak. Often the crutch of mountaineers and tourists, Yaks have a fascinating resistance to many of the health conditions that plague humans in thin air, particularly pulmonary hypertension. Their resistance to this disease that is commonly found in humans after living for an extended period of time at altitude relates to a structural modification involving less muscularization on pulmonary blood vessels. This structure reduces pulmonary constriction along with the risk of hypertension and edema. Though our pulmonary arteriole structure is fixed, taking Viagra helps dilate these vessels and similarly reduces the risk for these high altitude diseases.
7. Self-Regulating Oxy-Hemoglobin Affinity
The “oxygen affinity” of hemoglobin refers to level of attraction our circulating hemoglobin has for 02. Stronger affinity, resulting in better oxygen absorption from the lungs is common in Tibetan Sherpas. However, weaker hemoglobin affinity improves oxygen delivery to issues and is induced by altitude exposure as levels of an enzyme 2,3 DPG are synthesized. Strong hemoglobin affinity has also been correlated with reduced sea-level V02 max in rats. Mountain Might Man’s blood contains special enzymes that alter hemoglobin affinity as it circulates from lungs to tissues. This maximizes both oxygen absorption and delivery. Many endurance athletes supplement with different phosphate salts to increase 2,3 DPG production and improve performance at both high altitude and sea-level.
8. Blood Clot Inhibiting Factors
The blood of Andean Natives contains important molecules that keep it thin despite high concentrations of red blood cells. This both enhances circulation and reduces the risk of blood clots that can occur at high altitude. You can temporarily acquire this Mountain Might Man adaptation by taking aspirin. Aspirin is both commonly used by professional cyclists while engaging in legal blood doping regiments, and has been shown to reduce symptons of altitude sickness.
9. Hyper-Chemosensitivity and Brisk HVR
Much like Tibetan Sherpas, Mountain Might Man’s hypoxic ventilatory response (HVR), is highly responsive to drops in blood oxygen. This response can be attributed to highly functional “arterial chemosensors” that, combined with his other adaptations, enable him to adjust ventilation to fully compensate for extreme hypoxia. Diamox and an amino acid called N-acetylcysteine can both increase our HVR’s by increasing chemosensitivity.
These 9 biological superpowers enable Mountain Might Man to do sprint intervals up Mt. Everest and destroy the evil giant squid lurking in the deep blue. Take the advice he gives you and you may be able to improve your performance and health while enjoying the beauty of high altitude areas!
Mountain Might Man is an genetic work in progress and it is only a matter of time before our next gen model renders him obsolete, soFeel free to suggest additional adaptations!