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Qinghai-Tibet Plateau: Laboratory for Mountain Sickness Research

Experts attending the ongoing 6th International Altitude Disease Conference considered the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in western China to be a desirable natural laboratory for the study of altitude disease.


The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, known as the "roof of the world," is an area with high altitude and thin oxygen. It has complicated natural conditions including glacier, desert, plateau and grassland.


"The unique geographical environment of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau makes it the best test ground for the research of mountain sickness," said Wu Tianyi, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and director of the state laboratory on plateau medical science.


Tibetans and Han people who migrated to the region serve as special groups for altitude disease research, he added.


Living in the region for tens of thousand years, Tibetans have proven to be the best ethnic group adaptable to tableland life. There is not such a unique group anywhere else in the world.


Moreover, an estimated six million or seven million Han people from other parts of China also live on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Though they have accustomed to the life on tableland, the Han people's incidence of the mountain sickness is 70 percent higher than the Tibetans'.


The two groups provide scientists numerous cases in contradistinctive research on mountain sickness, Wu said.


The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is also richly endowed with uncountable animal and plant species, such as yak and Tibetan antelope, which are useful in the research of mountain sickness. As many plants live in areas with an altitude of 4,000-5,000 meters, they are the raw materials for making drugs for mountain sickness treatment and prevention.


(Xinhua News Agency August 18, 2004)


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