Researchers have been studying the Tibetan people to help determine what exactly allows them to thrive at high altitudes. According to the researchers, genetic adaptations for life at high elevations that have been found in Tibetans are believed to have first surfaced about 30,000 years ago in people related to contemporary Sherpa.
Researchers believe that the genes were passed on to migrants from lower elevations with population mixing. The study into these genetic adaptations comes from the University of Chicago and Case Western Reserve University. The author of the study is Anna di Rienzo, a professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago.
Di Rienzo says that the Tibetan genome appears to have come from two ancestral gene pools. She believes that only one migrated early to high altitude and adapted to the environment. The other stayed at lower altitudes. Intermixing of those two populations resulted in modern Tibetans.
The researchers studied the genome data of 69 Nepalese Sherpa together with the genomes of 96 unrelated individuals from high altitude regions in the Tibetan plateau. The researchers say that the results indicate that on a genomic level, modern Tibetans are descended from populations related to the modern Sherpa and Han Chinese.