I was never one that was particularly good at science. I think most of the instructors took pity on me and gave me a passing grade because my heart was in the right place (so to speak).
My work as the executive director of the American Sleep Apnea Association has so much more to do with the effects on humans of untreated sleep apnea and the challenges of adherence to treatment than with the mechanics of the breathing during sleep and the architecture of the upper airway. Though having something beyond a passing understanding of these topics is important, especially when thinking about the future of treatment for this condition.
So here I am, lovely Pittsburgh, home of the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins and the site of the 11th Symposium on Sleep and Breathing - a meeting held every two years or so that brings together the leading researchers in the field of sleep and breathing from all around the world.
Yesterday was the first full day, with 12 presentations and a featured talk from the Mark T. Gladwin, MD from the University of Pittsburgh it was quite a day.
Dr. Gladwin's speech on nitrite and the biology of hypoxic NO signaling was fascinating and one of the take aways is that cured meats may be helpful.
All of the other presentations were excellent - the format of this year's meeting was different from past years. In lieu of the senior researcher presenting, it is one of the junior researchers presenting work in progress.
All of the presentations provided insights to me and so were educational... the one that struck me the most was from a researcher associated with Dr. Montserrat of Barcelona Spain - Isaac Alemendros. The title of his talk was "Dyanamic changes in brain oxygen partial pressure during obstructive apneas."
The aim of his work was to carry-out a real-time measurment of tissue oxygen partial pressure (PtO2) in the cerebral cortex of rats during recurrent obstructive apneas mimicking those experienced by humans with OSA.
Conclusion - "These data suggest that the cerebral cortex tissue is partially protected from the intermittent hypoxia/reoxygenation stimulus induced by recurrent obstructive apneas."
Translation - It appears that that brain (in rats anyway) protects itself from damage from lack of oxygen during the on again/off again/on again that occurs during apneic events.