Mimicking Gene–Environment Interaction of Higher Altitude Dwellers by Intermittent Hypoxia Training: COVID-19 Preventive Strategies

Rashmi Supriya*, Kumar Purnendu Singh, Yang Gao, Dan Tao, Sarah Cheour, Frederic Dutheil, Julien S. Baker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Cyclooxygenase 2 (COX2) inhibitors have been demonstrated to protect against hypoxia pathogenesis in several investigations. It has also been utilized as an adjuvant therapy in the treatment of COVID-19. COX inhibitors, which have previously been shown to be effective in treating previous viral and malarial infections are strong candidates for improving the COVID-19 therapeutic doctrine. However, another COX inhibitor, ibuprofen, is linked to an increase in the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), which could increase virus susceptibility. Hence, inhibiting COX2 via therapeutics might not always be protective and we need to investigate the downstream molecules that may be involved in hypoxia environment adaptation. Research has discovered that people who are accustomed to reduced oxygen levels at altitude may be protected against the harmful effects of COVID-19. It is important to highlight that the study’s conclusions only applied to those who regularly lived at high altitudes; they did not apply to those who occasionally moved to higher altitudes but still lived at lower altitudes. COVID-19 appears to be more dangerous to individuals residing at lower altitudes. The downstream molecules in the (COX2) pathway have been shown to adapt in high-altitude dwellers, which may partially explain why these individuals have a lower prevalence of COVID-19 infection. More research is needed, however, to directly address COX2 expression in people living at higher altitudes. It is possible to mimic the gene–environment interaction of higher altitude people by intermittent hypoxia training. COX-2 adaptation resulting from hypoxic exposure at altitude or intermittent hypoxia exercise training (IHT) seems to have an important therapeutic function. Swimming, a type of IHT, was found to lower COX-2 protein production, a pro-inflammatory milieu transcription factor, while increasing the anti-inflammatory microenvironment. Furthermore, Intermittent Hypoxia Preconditioning (IHP) has been demonstrated in numerous clinical investigations to enhance patients’ cardiopulmonary function, raise cardiorespiratory fitness, and increase tissues’ and organs’ tolerance to ischemia. Biochemical activities of IHP have also been reported as a feasible application strategy for IHP for the rehabilitation of COVID-19 patients. In this paper, we aim to highlight some of the most relevant shared genes implicated with COVID-19 pathogenesis and hypoxia. We hypothesize that COVID-19 pathogenesis and hypoxia share a similar mechanism that affects apoptosis, proliferation, the immune system, and metabolism. We also highlight the necessity of studying individuals who live at higher altitudes to emulate their gene–environment interactions and compare the findings with IHT. Finally, we propose COX2 as an upstream target for testing the effectiveness of IHT in preventing or minimizing the effects of COVID-19 and other oxygen-related pathological conditions in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Number of pages15
Issue number1
Early online date21 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

User-Defined Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • cyclooxygenase
  • hypoxia
  • hypoxia training
  • intermittent hypoxia training
  • preconditioning


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