Stretching normal pressure and oxygen limits?

Would a mod that could allow us to not have decompression sickness and be able to survive with less oxygen be possible?

Slow acclimation would work to a certain point, and then, what could be done? :

Extra iron for more hemoglobin?
An Implantable rebreather?
Causing extra caluses to grow?

The less oxygen, would be useful occasionally and interesting usually when holding ones breath.
The not have decompression sickness would be useful when going to some areas.


  • edited October 2015
    Whatever you do, your body needs oxygen. Period. Every cell in your body (exception: muscle cells during anaerobic exercise) requires oxygen. All the time. When you acclimate to higher altitudes, your body produces more red blood cells to transport more oxygen per unit volume of blood to compensate for the lower concentration of oxygen in the air. This is done often by athletes prior to an event at a lower altitude for better performance from increased oxygen supply at the event. 

    If you want even higher levels of red blood cells, you can perform blood doping with erythroprotein or another synthetic compound (which can kill you, so I wouldn't recommend it). If you want to provide supplemental oxygen you aren't reducing the body's need for oxygen, just providing it in a canister other than the atmosphere. Other than that, the only other way to potentially reduce your oxygen consumption is by inducing hypothermia and/or sleeping.
  • I do not mean no oxygen, I mean less (10% atmosphere maybe?).
  • You might be able to make some kind of oxygen reservoir. There are synthetic hemoglobin and whatnot. Maybe you could make a membrane of the stuff. It would hold onto oxygen until the serum oxygen drops. Then it gets released. Decompression is a different beast. The nitrogen bubbles form as a result of pressure change. I don't see a biohack changing this.

    There are done basic things you can do too. Training with a hypo and hyperbaric chamber can cause physiological change and increased respiratory efficiency. Running can do this too to a different extent. There are exercises to increase lung volume. These things will have a greater impact than erythropoeitan on the average schmoe
  • As pointed out above, exercise would be your best bet to maximize your O2 supply/demand and decompression sickness is based on nitrogen in the blood which has to do with gas solubility at different pressures. Increasing iron wouldnt work because free iron is toxic and can cause hemochromatosis/liver cirrhosis.  And a mechanical re-breathers would be a huge technological feat in terms of creating an implantable pressurized unit with replaceable CO2 scrubbers that interfaces with your lungs.

    However, for the sake of a thought experiment, if you were so inclined to make a gene mod to improve O2 usage/uptake in low O2 environments your best bet would be to acquire gene mutations that are unique to high-altitude populations like Tibetans and Andeans. Two of the big ones are EPAS1 and EGLN1. Both of these are hypoxia inducible factors that turn on other genes during times of low O2 and trigger new blood vessel growth. Another one would be a eNOS enhancement mutations which allow for dilated blood vessels via nitric oxide. 

    Of course this is impossible at our current level of technology because you would need to insert these genes into a high percentage of your body's cells in different tissue types while not causing cancer. To make matters worse mutations in EPAS1 and EGLN1 have been implicated in cancer so you would have to make sure you had the right mutations. Maybe we can add it to all of our future designer babies.  

    Anyways your best bet is to workout and keep working out.  Don't even worry about working out in high elevations as most of those benefits are lost within a few months of leaving that environment.
  • As stated above, decompression sickness is down to gasses in the blood.
    When you take a breath, the air you breathe is dissolved into your blood at the pressure you breathe it in at.

    When you're at a static altitude this isn't much of an issue. As you go down under the sea you can have issues with nitrogen becoming narcotic and oxygen toxic, but as you go up above sealevel you're mostly worried about lacking oxygen.

    Decompression sickness happens when the pressure surrounding you decreases at a rate where the gasses in your blood come out of solution and become pockets of gas. These pockets tend to collect at the complex bits of geometry within you (elbows, knuckles, knees- the bendy bits, hence the nickname "the bends"). The treatment is simply to repressurise, or if it's not too severe you can stay at the altitude/depth you're at.
    If you continue to decompress these bubbles try to increase in size. Unfortunately, your body constricts them and you're left with pressurised gas inside you. This can cause embolisms and the like. In extreme scenarios it then tears its way out through your soft tissue. Ever opened a fizzy bottle of cola? Think of that, except that pressure is being relieved through your eyes, around your teeth, down the length of your genitals, etc.

    Increasing altitude rather than depth means more or less the same thing- the pressure outside you is lower than that inside you, so the dissolved gas bubbles. On top of this there's the risk of pulmonary oedema (where your lungs shut down from a lack of oxygen, though vasodilators can help fend this off so they'll scrape the last few bits from the air).

    So decompression sickness is not a biological disease or illness, it's a straightforward mechanical issue with your body. The only way to counter the effects of decompression sickness are to combat these mechanical issues: wear a pressurised suit (like the Newt Suit or a space suit), sit inside a pressurised vehicle (like a submarine or aircraft), or possibly /weakening/ and modifying blood vessels in strategic locations, allowing the gas to vent in a controlled fashion without losing any/much blood. The last option is currently very much science fiction.

    Rebrethers as used in helicopter survival suits come in the form of a bag and valve and are good for maybe 30 seconds. The proper long-endurance ones require additional oxygen supplies- in essence you're breathing tanked oxygen with the other 79% of the air being recirculated. They're also of limited duration and pretty bulky, so implantation won't happen unless you're overweight to the point where a large cavity could be hollowed out!

    Training is your best option. Get familiar with the feel of decompression sickness and know when to stop climbing/diving. Familiarisation in the months before a big climb will get you about as far as you can get without redesigning your entire cardiovascular system.
    When you said "useful when going to some areas" what sort of areas were you meaning?
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