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An Ethiopian pattern of human adaptation to high-altitude hypoxia

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National Academy of Sciences
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PMC
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Abstract

We describe, in Ethiopia, a third successful pattern of human adaptation to high-altitude hypoxia that contrasts with both the Andean “classic” (erythrocytosis with arterial hypoxemia) and the more recently identified Tibetan (normal venous hemoglobin concentration with arterial hypoxemia) patterns. A field survey of 236 Ethiopian native residents at 3,530 m (11,650 feet), 14–86 years of age, without evidence of iron deficiency, hemoglobinopathy, or chronic inflammation, found an average hemoglobin concentration of 15.9 and 15.0 g/dl for males and females, respectively, and an average oxygen saturation of hemoglobin of 95.3%. Thus, Ethiopian highlanders maintain venous hemoglobin concentrations and arterial oxygen saturation within the ranges of sea level populations, despite the unavoidable, universal decrease in the ambient oxygen tension at high altitude.

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