Risk factors no match for MS population

Posted 20 Feb 2022

High rates of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) will be the focus of a Flinders research project.

In the general (non-MS) population, the chronic sleep-related breathing disorder is three times more common in men and obesity is a major risk factor. But researchers are trying to understand why rates of OSA in MS patients are similar, despite key differences in populations. MS is three times more likely in women, many of whom are not obese.

“OSA is under diagnosed and underappreciated in the MS population,” said Dr Amal Osman, who has received a Flinders Foundation Health Seed Grant to research the causes of OSA in people with MS.

“Given that most people with MS who have OSA do not have the typical risk factors, the high prevalence of OSA in MS is not well understood.

“Preliminary findings suggest that impaired upper airway reflex function may be an important contributor to OSA for a substantial proportion of people with MS. However, this requires further careful investigation and is the focus of the work proposed in this grant.

“We will investigate if impaired pharyngeal muscle function is a key contributor to OSA pathogenesis in people with MS and OSA, versus matched controls without OSA.”

OSA symptoms including fatigue, depression and cognitive impairment could contribute to disease progression and reduction in quality of life for MS patients.

“These findings will establish important new lines of investigation in MS and OSA pathogenesis and may lead to a subsequent clinical trial for novel tailored therapy for people with MS and OSA,” Dr Osman said.

Research category: Biomedical

Project title: An investigation of a novel mechanism of obstructive sleep apnea in people with Multiple Sclerosis

Lead researcher: Dr Amal Osman


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