Scientists find new way to treat snoring-related heart disease

In a new study, researchers found a brain chemical could be responsible for triggering heart disease and high blood pressure in people with the snoring condition obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

They identified how a neurotransmitter called PACAP acts on the spinal cord to increase nerve activity, a common feature of OSA and high blood pressure.

The discovery may help develop new therapies that stop people with OSA developing dangerous heart problems.

The research was conducted by a team from the Heart Research Institute in Sydney.

One in 10 middle-aged Australians have OSA, a snoring disorder that disrupts breathing, limits blood oxygen levels and interferes with sound sleep.

People with OSA have much higher than average rates of stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression, and are more likely to feel excessively tired during the day.

The gold-standard treatment option for OSA is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), in which air is gently pumped into the airway overnight to stop the collapse.

However, non-compliance is an issue and heart problems are often not corrected.

In the study, the team focused on what role the brain plays in causing high blood pressure in people with OSA.

They found during snoring in OSA, PACAP singling in the spinal cord helps drive persistent increases in sympathetic nerve activity.

This is a precursor to the development of high blood pressure in conditions of OSA.

Moreover, the team found that by blocking a particular PACAP receptor could completely stop the process.

This means a drug that is able to block this action in humans would spare thousands from heart-related problems.

The lead author of the study is Dr. Melissa Farnham.

The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.

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