Amid standoff with India, China conducts genetic study of altitude adaptation in Tibetans


China has reportedly opened the world’s largest “plateau human genetic resources biological sample bank” in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau for medical researchers to study “plateau diseases” and improve the country’s health support capabilities in the region.

According to a report in the state-owned Global Times, expert teams from Xinqiao Hospital in Southwest China completed a large-scale field study on the plateau population of more than 1,00,000 people in 15 years. An additional reserve of 20,000 samples was contributed by a medical research base with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the Tibet Autonomous Region, the report added. This means that the large-scale study was conducted on around 1,20,000 Tibetans over 15 years.

“Plateau diseases have high incidence and could be fatal, but the current technical means to treat it have been limited. Such sufficient biological support will contribute to the study of altitude sickness in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau,” Jin Jun, Xinqiao Hospital professor, was quoted as saying.

WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE?

India and China have been locked in a military stand-off at several friction points in eastern Ladakh since May last year. While the Indian Army has specialised in high altitude warfare, media reports earlier this year suggested that PLA soldiers were facing multiple challenges at the high-altitude terrain of Ladakh.

On reports of China setting up a gene resources sample bank, Colonel Jaibans Singh (retired) told Sputnik News, “Long presence at such high altitude is not something that the Chinese troops can sustain, hence the need to build upon their physical capacity. All such biological experiments are directed toward that desired end state.”

Another report in Sputnik News said in a report published on a Chinese military website, said the PLA has divided military training for new recruits into three stages – “adapt to the plateau”, “fit for the plateau”, and “applicable to the plateau”.

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