Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Molecular Biology Of Sleep Apnea Could Lead To New Treatments

Date:
March 20, 2008
Source:
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Summary:
Researchers have provided, for the first time, a detailed look at the molecular pathways underlying sleep apnea. The team found that in an animal model of sleep apnea poorly folded proteins accumulate in one compartment of a muscle nerve cell, which, under certain conditions, tells a cell to heal itself or destroy itself.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have provided, for the first time, a detailed look at the molecular pathways underlying sleep apnea, which affects more than twelve million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health. Sleep apnea is a condition characterized by temporary breathing interruptions during sleep, in which disruptions can occur dozens or even hundreds of times a night.

Related Articles


The team found that in an animal model of sleep apnea poorly folded proteins accumulate in one compartment of a muscle nerve cell, which, under certain conditions, tells a cell to heal itself or destroy itself.

"Muscles relax as a normal part of sleep, causing the airway to close," explains senior author Sigrid C. Veasey, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, at the Penn Center for Sleep. "But in patients with sleep apnea, oxygen levels in cells drop too low, sending an arousal signal to wake by gasping for air. This happens all night long, so patients experience bad quality sleep. In addition to problems with sleepiness, subtle peripheral neural injury occurs."

In a mouse model of sleep apnea, the researchers found that motor neurons of the jaw and face had swollen endoplasmic reticula, the part of the cell where proteins get folded properly. They surmised that misfolded proteins accumulated as the endoplasmic reticula of mice were exposed to decreased oxygen and oxygen fluctuations during sleep over eight weeks. The involvement of the endoplasmic reticula has never been shown before in explaining the physiology of sleep apnea on a cellular level, says Veasey.

But how does this work? Sensor proteins sitting on the surface of the endoplasmic reticula get activated by poorly folded proteins within. The Penn group worked with one of those proteins, called PERK. When PERK gets activated, two things can happen: The cell can take a pathway to fix itself or one that leads to self destruction. The cell makes that decision based on its initial health.

"If a patient has sleep apnea with healthy cells, the cells will take the fix-it path. Then good things happen; the cell activates another molecule called eIF-2alpha, which turns on helpful molecules like anti-oxidants that degrade the misfolded proteins," explains Veasey.

However if cells are unhealthy to begin with, the PERK pathway can also turn on molecules that cause the cell to turn on itself and activate apoptosis or cell death. "In this event, we predict that patients with sleep apnea may lose motor neurons," notes Veasey. "Eventually sleep apnea could continue to worsen since the few remaining neurons are already stressed when gasping for air during sleep."

A drug called salubrinal does keep the eIF-2alpha path active, thereby preventing vulnerable cells from going down the cell-death path. But salubrinal is a double-edged sword: Just the right amount keeps the cell happy, but too much can shut down all protein synthesis, a highly toxic outcome.

The research team is now working on how to ramp up the eIF-2alpha path with changes in the mouse diet. "This paper shows which pathways are important for treating sleep apnea, but we'll need to come up with therapies other than salubrinal," says Veasey. "Ultimately if we can do healthy things that protect the endoplasmic reticula of cells, then sleep apnea won't be such an insult, not only to motor neurons, but neurons involved in cognition and alertness."

The findings appear in a recent issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. Co-authors are Yan Zhou, Polina Fenik, Guanxia Zhan, Ben Sanfillipo-Cohn, and Nirinjini Naidoo, all from Penn. The research was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. "Molecular Biology Of Sleep Apnea Could Lead To New Treatments." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 March 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080319111920.htm>.
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. (2008, March 20). Molecular Biology Of Sleep Apnea Could Lead To New Treatments. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080319111920.htm
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. "Molecular Biology Of Sleep Apnea Could Lead To New Treatments." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080319111920.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Christmas Kissing Good for Health

Christmas Kissing Good for Health

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) Scientists in Amsterdam say couples transfer tens of millions of microbes when they kiss, encouraging healthy exposure to bacteria. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) Cambridge scientists have unravelled the genetic code of a rare tapeworm that lived inside a patient's brain for at least four year. Researchers hope it will present new opportunities to diagnose and treat this invasive parasite. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Touch-Free Smart Phone Empowers Mobility-Impaired

Touch-Free Smart Phone Empowers Mobility-Impaired

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) A touch-free phone developed in Israel enables the mobility-impaired to operate smart phones with just a movement of the head. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) Polish scientists isolate bacteria from earthworm intestines which they say may be used in antibiotics and cancer treatments. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins