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New frontiers in obstructive sleep apnoea.


OSA (obstructive sleep apnoea), the most common respiratory disorder of sleep, is caused by the loss of upper airway dilating muscle activity during sleep superimposed on a narrow upper airway. This results in recurrent nocturnal asphyxia. Termination of these events usually requires arousal from sleep and results in sleep fragmentation and hypoxaemia, which leads to poor quality sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, reduced quality of life and numerous other serious health consequences. Furthermore, patients with untreated sleep apnoea are at an increased risk of hypertension, stroke, heart failure and atrial fibrillation. Although there are many predisposing risk factors for OSA, including male gender, endocrine disorders, use of muscle relaxants, smoking, fluid retention and increased age, the strongest risk factor is obesity. The aim of the present review is to focus on three cutting-edge topics with respect to OSA. The section on animal models covers various strategies used to simulate the physiology or the effects of OSA in animals, and how these have helped to understand some of the underlying mechanisms of OSA. The section on diabetes discusses current evidence in both humans and animal models demonstrating that intermittent hypoxia and sleep fragmentation has a negative impact on glucose tolerance. Finally, the section on cardiovascular biomarkers reviews the evidence supporting the use of these biomarkers to both measure some of the negative consequences of OSA, as well as the potential benefits of OSA therapies.

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