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Altitude performance in elite athletes: genetic, metabolic and neurocardiovascular analysis in training and competition

Total activity: 3
Type of activity
Competitive project
Funding entity
ALPE Project
Funding entity code
90.750,00 €
Start date
End date
altitud, altitude, deporte, genomics, genómica, hipoxia, hypoxia, metabolomics, metabolómica, miRNomics, miRNómica, performance, rendimiento, sport, variabilidad de la frecuencia cardiaca
Research on sport performance is heavily related to basic biology, physiology, psychology, medicine and sport science. Modern sport is
introducing complex multi-level research in order to understand performance differences as function of genetics, diet and training scheme.
Training scheme design is known to have a great impact on performance. Altitude training (AT) has been a matter of extensive research
for half a century and despite some skeptical views it still plays an important role in the preparation of athletes in many countries.
The research team has previously completed an international multidisciplinary and collaborative research project (ALTITUDE Project) to
examine the impact of different current AT strategies on performance, technique, and health status of 65 elite swimmers from eight
countries. This line of research is continuation of that developed by the INEFC-UB Hypobaric Unit since 1991 using experimental models
of exposure to intermittent hypoxia. On a first published analysis, disruptive results were obtained, as only one group living and training
both at altitude and at sea level (Hi-HiLo) improved performance more than sea level controls and, more importantly, no relationship was
found between increased performance and VO2max, anaerobic capacity or swimming economy. These results leave room for unidentified
muscle factors.
In a second, related project (TEC2014-60337-R project), the research group has analyzed linear (time and frequency domains) HRV
indices in athletes participating in endurance running races. We also developed tools for the identification of almost one fourth of all
protein-coding genes with differential expression in a group of 16 runners participating in an 82-km ultra-marathon trail competition,
showing clear differences between biological pathways and transcriptional regulators (TRs), identified through independent component
analysis factorization, and in HRV throughout the race and in contrast to the athlete training.
The project aims for the understanding of the differences in performance between sea level and moderate altitude training. This
understanding must cover two phases: first a deep characterization of the available data and biological samples at different levels,
including metabolomic profiling, study of noncoding transcriptional regulators, assessment of the autonomous nervous system activation
and performance data; secondly, an integrated analysis of the different domains linking physiological data with metabolomic and genetic
profiling, biological interpretation of these interactions and cross-validated prediction models of performance and health related indexes.
ALPE project will therefore extend the results from both projects by understanding the optimal physiological, cardiovascular and
metabolomics conditions of altitude training and competition in a quantitative way, as well as correlate them with risk or negative impact in
terms of health or performance for the athlete himself.
The project will deepen into the integration of metabolomics with phenotypic data by the analysis of complex and heterogeneous data in a
multi-level scheme. UPC previous experience in transcriptomics and HRV analysis in sport, INEFC large expertise in sport sciences, and
Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau (HSP) in genomics grant the feasibility of the project.


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