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HKBU establishes Hong Kong’s largest Normobaric Hypoxic Chamber to promote the development of hypoxia-related research and to provide public consultancy services

28 Jan 2014

Professor Frank Fu introduces Hong Kong’s largest Normobaric Hypoxic Chamber
Professor Frank Fu introduces Hong Kong’s largest Normobaric Hypoxic Chamber
(From left) Dr. Guo Linxuan, Professor Frank Fu and Dr. Lobo Louie invite the media to experience the body’s reaction at a simulated attitude of 2,200m, higher than the height of Kumming, Mainland China (16% oxygen concentration).
(From left) Dr. Guo Linxuan, Professor Frank Fu and Dr. Lobo Louie invite the media to experience the body’s reaction at a simulated attitude of 2,200m, higher than the height of Kumming, Mainland China (16% oxygen concentration).

HKBU recently set up Hong Kong’s second and largest Normobaric Hypoxic Chamber in its Dr. Stephen Hui Research Centre for Physical Recreation and Wellness (CPRW) to further promote the development of hypoxia-related research. Professor Frank Fu, Associate Vice-President and Director of CPRW, and his team, including Associate Director Dr. Lobo Louie met the media today (28 January) to release the findings of a research project entitled “The effects of maximal intermittent exercises in normoxia and hypoxia environments on the release of cardiac biomarkers and the potential mechanism” as well as to introduce the current and upcoming research projects and the future consultancy services of the Chamber to the general public. 

The research was conducted by Professor Frank Fu and Dr. Li Feifei, Research Assistant of CPRW. This was the first study on the effects of high intensity exercise on myocardial damage (biomarkers) in the laboratory, on whether myocardial damage would be aggravated in hypoxic environment and on the potential mechanism of myocardial damage in high intensity exercise in humans. 

The subjects were 10 male Beijing Sport University students who are well-trained marathon runners aged 20 to 25. They performed intermittent running in a simulated altitude of 3000m in a normobaric hypoxic chamber (14.4% oxygen concentration) and in a normoxic environment (20.9% oxygen concentration). Vein blood samples were collected for cardiac biomarkers testing before, right after, two hours after, four hours after and 24 hours after running. 

Research results showed that high intermittent exercise could result in myocardial damage in 50% to 70% of endurance athletes with the damage getting severe two to four hours after exercise and recovery taking place in 24 hours. High intensity intermittent exercise could result in myocardial damage in 90% of endurance athletes when exercising in a hypoxic condition while recovery would take place in 24 hours. Analysis of the research results showed that the elevated oxidative stress level could result in myocardial damage. 

Researchers advised that (1) sufficient training is necessary before a marathon run (2) sufficient rest is recommended in the first 24 hours after high intensity exercise and other strenuous exercise should be avoided (3) relative low intensity exercise should be performed in hypoxic conditions (4) anti-oxidative supplements such as vitamin C and vitamin E be taken to protect the heart and to avoid fatigue. 

In addition, the team is conducting a research on “Differences of energy expenditure in different oxygen concentration” at the Normobaric Hypoxic Chamber and will embark on a project entitled “The effects of intermittent normobaric hypoxia on energy balance and obesity”. 

Professor Fu also introduced the consultancy services to be offered to the general public in the future, such as screening of adaptability to travel or work in high altitude environments. He also invited the media to visit the 7m x 5.5m Normobaric Hypoxic Chamber and experience the body’s reaction at a simulated attitude of 2,200m, higher than the height of Kumming, Mainland China (16% oxygen concentration). 

By regulating and controlling oxygen concentration, the Normobaric Hypoxic Chamber can simulate the environment of various altitudes, e.g. it can simulate an altitude environment equivalent to 5,000m within four hours. The Chamber is used for the study of human performance and the impact on human beings of environmental conditions under various oxygen concentration levels, including elite sports training, effectiveness of exercise programmes and control of excessive weight gain and obesity. Apart from physical training, the Chamber can also be used as an “altitude tent”. The environment chamber will facilitate research on the effects of living and sleeping in a simulated altitude environment.