Thursday, 28 March 2013

Educational Use

Assessing the benefit of the project

Dr Angela Benson has been conducting interviews with the group over the previous two weeks. Angela is assessing the usefulness of the project for the students in regards to the educational benefit and also to their understanding and motivation for volunteering over the project. The students and staff found the sessions to be a very open opportunity to discuss what they hope to gain from the experience. Angela will then interview both the staff and students after arriving back. This will hopefully be used by others in the future to help them develop and plan volunteering projects abroad, integrated with education whether in HE, FE or school based groups. This will then be presented at the forthcoming Learning and Teaching Conference in July.

The Final Testing Week

Measuring Sophie's metabolic rate
using the Metamax 3X system, Cortex Medical

Final part of sea level testing

With only 5 days to go, all the sea level studies are coming to an end and everyone is getting rather excited, mainly because they can now sleep in past 6am.


The main study being carried out this week is the fat metabolism at altitude study, in which we aim to assess whether individuals increase metabolic rate, reduce appetite, suppress taste or exercise more when at altitude. This study considers a range of measures such as basal metabolic rate, daily appetite, taste, leptin changes, body mass and lipid profile markers (free fatty acids, cholesterol, triglycerides) pre, post and throughout the project. For some this was their first taste of having a cannula in their arm (required for multiple venous blood samples) needless to say some didn't take too well to the sensation. Multiple respiratory samples were taken while lying down for 1 hour and then while sitting to ascertain metabolic rates. Measures such as oxygen use, carbon dioxide production and therefore the substrates used for energy production were measured using the Cortex Medical Metamax 3X system.

Dominic doing his heat tolerance test


The final few training sessions are being completed and then everyone will have their final heat tolerance trial. Both participants and experimenters have found this hard work as the monotony of 90mins cycling at 40C with rectal thermistors takes its toll. Please see our previous for more details of this study.

Summer having her SaO2, blood pressure and
body fluid compartment volumes measured


Participants completed their second hydration measurement session for their double baseline over this week. This study requires the measurement of body fluid compartments and hydration throughout the project. Testing for this is a lot more relaxing, with subjects providing a urine sample, body mass and then laying for a long period before multi-frequency bioelectrical impedance analysis, SaO2, blood pressure and heart rate was taken. 

The lightweight Seca scales and the Nonin Plus pulse oximeters that will be travelling to Peru and up to Machu Picchu with us were kindly donated by Cranlea.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Getting Warmer

Things are hotting up...

So the cycling continues. The mid Heat Tolerance Tests are starting to be completed as people finish their 5th heat acclimation session. Without measuring physiological values, it is clear to see people are already finding a noticeable improvement in their tolerance to the training in the heat. Yet it is still seems to be pretty hard work for those doing the heat based trials as you can see from our video.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Testing Week Two

Heat Acclimation Overload

Another week of testing with the start of the heat acclimation process for one third of the students on the project. The heat acclimation training requires 10 days of 90mins cycling at 50%VO2max in 40 degrees Celsius. Measures of heart rate, rating of perceived exertion, thermal sensation, core temperature and physiological strain are taken every 5th minute for all participants.

The other two thirds of the group are either completing a normothermic training for the same duration and intensity, or no training at all. The students in the control doing no training at all are acting as the experimenters and busy collecting all the data from the 16 exercising participants.

Needless to say, the heat acclimation hasn't been easy, but the 8 students completing the training have worked hard so far, especially considering this has had to be done around their normal students and the considerable amount of work that is due in soon or immediately after Peru.

In the week prior, participants had completed VO2max tests and heat tolerance tests in which they run until exhaustion in the 40C environment. All participants will complete these tests again after 5 and 10 training sessions.

Participants are also required to give venous blood samples at the same time points. This is to measure various blood markers including heat shock protein 72, a protein chaperone known to be up-regulated when the body is subjected to sufficient environmental and physical strain. It is suggested that by up-regulating HSP72 an individual may improve their tolerance to environmental extremes such as heat and altitude.

Oli Gibson, who is leading this research project, is now looking rather more stressed than normal, as the snow day and closure of the University has caused all sorts of problems with rearranging of testing, lectures and bookings for the chamber. Fortunately it all seems to be going well, follow our twitter page to follow how it goes.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Testing Week One

Labs looking relatively clear before the enslaught

Week One - TICK

So at the end of week one of four, we have been successful in completing all 29 VO2max tests, 29 Heat Tolerance Tests, 174 normoxic and hypoxic walking tests and 29 hydration tests. Not bad at all.

Alice M, James and Ben D completing an outdoor walking test

Lee doing his hypoxic walking test


Of all the tests the 6min walking test has been the most surprising in that it is deceptively painful on the lower leg muscles, yet it also very repeatable. Time and statistical analysis will tell but the immediate response is that many people across hypoxia, normoxia and outdoor got very similar and representative distance and physiological results. 

Ben P completing his first heat tolerance test
Dominic looking he is enjoying the 40C

Tess completing her VO2max test using the Cortex Medical Metalyser


Oli has been busy conducting all 29 VO2max trials on the cycle ergometers and using the Cortex Medical Metalyser, which has worked really well and calibrated first time every time, especially considering the number of tests completed on the one machine in one week. 

Ben's study on fat metabolism at altitude, which starts in two weeks time, will be using the Cortex Medical Metamax 3X for  

Although it has been busy and a little hectic at times, I believe everyone has enjoyed it. From a staff perspective it seems like it has brought all the students and staff together in the realisation that we are all in this together. Of course this research is all in addition to normal workloads of both the staff and students so working round lectures and meetings has been interesting at times.

For updates on the testing and some excellent pictures of very sweaty individuals please follow our Twitter page @UOB_PERU2013