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Neurol Sci. 2016 Apr;37(4):533-9. doi: 10.1007/s10072-016-2521-1. Epub 2016 Feb 29.

Re-exposure to the hypobaric hypoxic brain injury of high altitude: plasma S100B levels and the possible effect of acclimatisation on blood-brain barrier dysfunction.

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Kenneth Jamieson Department of Neurosurgery, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Herston, QLD, Australia.
University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.
Kenneth Jamieson Department of Neurosurgery, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Herston, QLD, Australia.
Department of Chemical Pathology, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Herston, QLD, Australia.
School of Human Movement Studies, University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD, Australia.
CAE Solutions, Iidabashi, Chiyoda-Kyu, Tokyo, Japan.
Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Herston, QLD, Australia.


Hypobaric hypoxic brain injury results in elevated peripheral S100B levels which may relate to blood-brain barrier (BBB) dysfunction. A period of acclimatisation or dexamethasone prevents altitude-related illnesses and this may involve attenuation of BBB compromise. We hypothesised that both treatments would diminish the S100B response (a measure of BBB dysfunction) on re-ascent to the hypobaric hypoxia of high altitude, in comparison to an identical ascent completed 48 h earlier by the same group. Twelve healthy volunteers, six of which were prescribed dexamethasone, ascended Mt Fuji (summit 3700 m) and serial plasma S100B levels measured. The S100B values reduced from a baseline 0.183 µg/l (95 % CI 0.083-0.283) to 0.145 µg/l (95 % CI 0.088-0.202) at high altitude for the dexamethasone group (n = 6) and from 0.147 µg/l (95 % CI 0.022-0.272) to 0.133 µg/l (95 % CI 0.085-0.182) for the non-treated group (n = 6) [not statistically significant (p = 0.43 and p = 0.82) for the treated and non-treated groups respectively]. [These results contrasted with the statistically significant increase during the first ascent, S100B increasing from 0.108 µg/l (95 % CI 0.092-0.125) to 0.216 µg/l (95 % CI 0.165-0.267) at high altitude]. In conclusion, an increase in plasma S100B was not observed in the second ascent and this may relate to the effect of acclimatisation (or hypoxic pre-conditioning) on the BBB. An exercise stimulated elevation of plasma S100B levels was also not observed during the second ascent. The small sample size and wide confidence intervals, however, precludes any statistically significant conclusions and a larger study would be required to confirm these findings.


Acclimatisation; Blood–brain barrier; Dexamethasone; High altitude; Hypoxia; S100B

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