Sleep Apnea

Research conducted by Anupriya Tripathi (left), an Indian American U.C. San Diego biological sciences graduate student, and collaborator Gabriel Haddad, a professor of pediatrics at the U.C. San Diego School of Medicine, has uncovered a possible link between sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease. (UCSD.edu/Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications photo)

A research team led by an Indian American biological sciences graduate student at UC San Diego, Anupriya Tripathi, and U.C. San Diego School of Medicine professor of pediatrics Gabriel Haddad has uncovered a potential link between sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease.

More than 12 percent of the adult population in America suffers from OSA, a condition characterized by airway collapse that leaves them gasping for breath in their sleep, U.C. San Diego said in a news report.

As a result of this intermittent airway collapse, the body is exposed to low oxygen and high carbon dioxide conditions, and people with the condition are more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases down the road, it said.

Scientists don’t understand why exposure to low oxygen and high carbon dioxide might lead to cardiovascular disease — only that there appears to be a link, the university report said.

Tripathi and collaborator Haddad decided to probe the gut microbiome for answers, the report added.

“We wanted to see whether we could observe changes in the composition of the gut microbiota—microorganisms like bacteria, viruses and fungi—and the chemicals they produce in mice with induced sleep apnea,” said Tripathi, who is the first author on a study published June 5 in the American Society for Microbiology’s open-access journal, mSystems, the report said.

The study is groundbreaking in that it reveals a previously unrecognized link between OSA and gut microbes, suggesting the microbiota and their metabolites as potential therapeutic targets for the treatment of cardiovascular consequences of OSA-affected individuals, according to the report.

“I’m excited to investigate each of these observations more carefully,” added Tripathi. “The potential for discovering diagnostic and therapeutic targets is really promising.”

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