Researchers study sleep apnea and lack of oxygen

Oct 04, 2010

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the average sleep apnea sufferer stops breathing and loses oxygen between five and 30 times a night. This lack of oxygen leads to a host of complications, including high blood pressure, vascular disease, an abnormal heart rhythm, or even a fatal cardiac event. Now, a team of University of Missouri researchers is exploring the changes in distinct brain regions that contribute to these symptoms in hopes of combating this common health issue.

Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax during sleep, leading the airway to narrow or close. It's estimated that 12 million Americans are affected by sleep apnea, but it's widely believed that the issue is under reported. There are no blatant signs or blood tests to diagnose the disrupted sleep. Most cases of sleep apnea are discovered when a partner notices an increase in snoring, or when the sufferer indicates daytime fatigue and sleepiness.

To learn more about sleep apnea, the National Institutes of Health awarded University of Missouri researchers a $2.83 million multi-investigator grant to continue work on neurohumoral control of the circulation and breathing– studying how the brain responds to hypoxia, or the lack of oxygen. The team includes Eileen Hasser, professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and adjunct professor of medical pharmacology and physiology; Cheryl Heesch, professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences; and David Kline, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences.

The researchers use an experimental model of lab rats that produces traits that mimic periodic sleep apnea. Using state-of-the-art techniques and equipment in the MU Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center, the researchers are able to identify specific cells and pathways within the brain that are involved in responses to hypoxia. Researchers hope the information can be used to develop drugs or procedures to correct or slow the dangerous effects of .

"Working together, we each bring different skills and ways of looking at the problem, which increases our ability to answer the important questions in this field," Hasser said.

While only in the first year of the four-year grant, the researchers have already advanced knowledge on how the brain adapts to diminished oxygen. Results of their initial experiments were recently published in the scientific journal, Neuroscience.

Explore further: Study provides more evidence that sleep apnea is hurting your brain

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Viagra may aggravate sleep apnea

Sep 25, 2006

A study done in Brazil indicates a single dose of the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra may aggravate sleep apnea.

Ecstasy may be linked to sleep apnea

Dec 02, 2009

New research shows that recreational users of the drug known as ecstasy may be at a higher risk for sleep apnea. The study is published in the December 2, 2009, online issue of Neurology.

Recommended for you

Obese British man in court fight for surgery

Jul 11, 2011

A British man weighing 22 stone (139 kilograms, 306 pounds) launched a court appeal Monday against a decision to refuse him state-funded obesity surgery because he is not fat enough.

2008 crisis spurred rise in suicides in Europe

Jul 08, 2011

The financial crisis that began to hit Europe in mid-2008 reversed a steady, years-long fall in suicides among people of working age, according to a letter published on Friday by The Lancet.

New food labels dished up to keep Europe healthy

Jul 06, 2011

A groundbreaking deal on compulsory new food labels Wednesday is set to give Europeans clear information on the nutritional and energy content of products, as well as country of origin.

Overweight men have poorer sperm count

Jul 04, 2011

Overweight or obese men, like their female counterparts, have a lower chance of becoming a parent, according to a comparison of sperm quality presented at a European fertility meeting Monday.

User comments : 0