To increase resiliency and performance of army troops posted at upper Himalayan region, a top defence research institute is setting up the world's highest workstation at Chang La Pass, over 17,000 ft above sea level in Ladakh, to study high-altitude health problems.
"This is poised to be the world's highest laboratory dedicated to human physiology research and will provide facilities for in-situ experimentation on high-altitude physiology," said scientist Sunil Kumar Hota from Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR), which has set up the station.
DIHAR is one of the laboratories of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
Situated at 17,590 ft above the sea level, Changa La Pass has an ambient temperature of minus 40-45 degree Celsius during winters.
In view of increasing defence requirement and tourists opting to visit the cold arid zones, the laboratory will not only be used to study the changes in human physiology caused by high-altitude ascent, but will also pioneer the search for prophylactics and therapeutics treatment for such maladies.
Last week, DIHAR director Sashi Bala had laid the foundation of the lab which will be functional within the next month.
Hota, who is in-charge of the laboratory, said that the rapid ascent to high altitude may cause acute mountain sickness (AMS) and sometime lead to cerebral edema or pulmonary edema which could be fatal in the harsh environment.
"The hypobaric hypoxia that occurs due to decrease in partial pressure of oxygen at high-altitude leads to thickening of blood and changes hormonal responses in non-acclimatised people which could lead to serious health problems," he explained.
Besides, he said decreasing mental and physical abilities at high altitude can induce personality disorders.
The laboratory equipped with state-of-art-facilities will meet the requirements of scientists from all over the world to study high-altitude physiology and act as a tool for military men to perform better when deployed at the difficult terrain of upper Himalayas.
"Several laboratories all over the world have already been studying high-altitude physiology and its effect on several organs and with DRDO following suit, it will be easier to study these changes on a real-time basis, recognise the symptoms in army personnel and react appropriately," the scientist said.