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Detailed evaluation of the upper airway in the Dp(16)1Yey mouse model of Down syndrome


A high prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has been reported in Down syndrome (DS) owing to the coexistence of multiple predisposing factors related to its genetic abnormality, posing a challenge for the management of OSA. We hypothesized that DS mice recapitulate craniofacial abnormalities and upper airway obstruction of human DS and can serve as an experimental platform for OSA research. This study, thus, aimed to quantitatively characterize the upper airway as well as craniofacial abnormalities in Dp(16)1Yey (Dp16) mice. Dp16 mice demonstrated craniofacial hypoplasia, especially in the ventral part of the skull and the mandible, and rostrally positioned hyoid. These changes were accompanied with a shorter length and smaller cross-sectional area of the upper airway, resulting in a significantly reduced upper airway volume in Dp16 mice. Our non-invasive approach, a combination of computational fluid dynamics and high-resolution micro-CT imaging, revealed a higher negative pressure inside the airway of Dp16 mice compared to wild-type littermates, showing the potential risk of upper airway collapse. Our study indicated that Dp16 mice can be a useful model to examine the pathophysiology of increased upper airway collapsibility of DS and to evaluate the efficacy of therapeutic interventions for breathing and sleep anomalies.

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