High Altitude Adaptation in the Himalayas
Dr Qasim Ayub described how modern humans like us adapted to high altitudes in different continents after they moved out of Africa. He particularly focused on the extremely high altitude inhabitants of the Tibetan Plateau in Asia. He explained that adaptation in the Himalayan populations (Tibetans, Nepalese and Bhutanese) are characterised by a unique genomic sequence within a single gene that plays a role in the human response to low levels of oxygen. More surprisingly this sequence is similar to an extinct human species, indicating that mating between archaic and modern humans enabled adaptation to high altitude in this region. His work demonstrated that this archaic sequence is widespread in the Himalayas and its frequency is positively correlated with altitude, thus illustrating that the genetic adaptation to living at high altitude originated only once in this region.