An ancient molecule underlies the mechanism for sleep apnea and vascular problems

by Helen Dodson
An ancient molecule underlies the mechanism for sleep apnea and vascular problems
Credit: Shutterstock

(Medical Xpress)—The underlying mechanism of obstructive sleep apnea that causes damage to blood vessels and contributes to hypertension, stroke, and atherosclerosis has been identified by researchers from Yale and elsewhere. The finding points to potential biomarkers for early diagnosis and treatment of these conditions. The study appears in PLOS ONE.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is characterized by recurrent upper airway obstruction while sleeping. It affects up to a fourth of all adults and is associated with increased risk of hypertension, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. But until now, the underlying mechanisms were not fully established.

Current evidence suggests, the authors write, that , oxidative stress, and dysfunction in the inner lining of —the endothelium—play roles in the vascular complications of OSA. In addition, endothelial dysfunction is the earliest event in atherosclerosis and plays a pivotal role in all phases of that condition, including plaque rupture.

The researchers studied 37 adults who suffer from OSA. Nearly a third were hypertensive. The capacity of their blood vessels to relax was evaluated by Doppler ultrasonography. YKL-40, an ancient molecule that exists in hard-shell creatures and is highly conserved all the way to humans, was found to be elevated exclusively in OSA patients with and hypertension. The dysregulation of YKL-40 is due, in part, to disruption of vascular endothelial growth factor signaling—a signaling protein that helps to create and repair blood vessels. YKL-40 contributes to fibrosis and wound healing, but higher levels are seen in asthma and other inflammatory disorders, and often correlate with disease severity.

"We believe this study provides potential biomarkers for a constellation of disorders related to , making and successful treatment much more likely," said senior author Dr. Vahid Mohsenin, professor of medicine in the pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine section of Yale School of Medicine, and a fellow at the John B. Pierce Laboratory.

More information: Jafari B, Elias JA, Mohsenin V (2014) "Increased Plasma YKL-40/Chitinase-3-Like-Protein-1 Is Associated with Endothelial Dysfunction in Obstructive Sleep Apnea." PLoS ONE 9(5): e98629. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0098629

Related Stories

Recommended for you

New quality measures approved for childhood sleep apnea

date Mar 13, 2015

A work group of physicians from leading academic medical centers across the country, including NYU Langone Medical Center, has developed new quality measures for the detection and treatment of childhood obstructive ...

Sleep apnea is common in women with pregnancy diabetes

date Mar 07, 2015

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is prevalent in obese, pregnant Asian women with gestational diabetes, even when their diabetes is controlled by diet, a new study from Thailand finds. Study results, which also connect the severity ...

Sleep problems may impact bone health

date Feb 03, 2015

The daily rhythm of bone turnover is likely important for normal bone health, and recent research suggests that sleep apnea may be an unrecognized cause of some cases of osteoporosis. Sleep apnea's effects on sleep duration ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.