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US wants to crack sherpa gene code

Sherpas are the Heroes in the Himlayas, the best guides for climbers there, reports Anirban Roy.
Hindustan Times | By Anirban Roy, Kathmandu
UPDATED ON OCT 31, 2007 01:34 AM IST

Sherpas are the Heroes in the Himlayas — the best guides for climbers in the Himalayas.

And now, the two greatest Sherpa mountaineers are being researched by the University of Utah in the US. Forty-seven-year-old Apa Sherpa holds the world record for climbing Mount Everest 17 times, while his friend Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa holds the world record for the fastest ascent to the summit of the highest peak.

Scientists at the University of Utah have started a detailed research on their unique athleticism on the world’s highest peak. Both the star mountaineers have been camping in the US for the last couple of years.

A scientist engaged in the research project was also part of their last Everest expedition in May this year. “The study would soon reveal a lot of details about the unique high mountain climbing capabilities of the Sherpas,” Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) said.

The scientists have found great interest in the research project as their initial findings have revealed that the Sherpas’ bodies have undergone thousands of years of physiological adaptation to high altitudes.

The NMA chief said the scientists are hoping to discover how the world's fittest high-altitude climbers operate. “They are also working on a documentary and book on the Sherpas,” he said.

As a part of the research, the scientists have also collected several medical data of the two climbers in the laboratory.

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