With an increasing number of people losing their lives to heart disease each year, researchers from the Kolling Institute have launched a first of its kind study using MRI technology to broaden scientific understanding of the link between cardiovascular disease and sleep apnoea.
The new study follows latest figures showing cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, killing one Australian every 12 minutes.
This makes the research important and timely, especially given that obstructive sleep apnoea is also increasing and now affects around one billion people. Known as the silent killer, this chronic disease causes low oxygen levels, sleep disturbance and dangerous pressure inside the chest.
Meet the team searching for answers
Royal North Shore Hospital respiratory and sleep medicine specialist Professor Peter Cistulli will lead the study, collaborating with RNSH Head of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine Dr Ben Harris, and Kolling Institute researchers Professor Martin Ugander and Dr Rebecca Kozor, who are experts in cardiac imaging.
Professor Cistulli said obstructive sleep apnoea has been linked to the development of cardiovascular disease, including hypertension, heart attack, atrial fibrillation and stroke – but there have been no randomised controlled trials confirming a causal link between the two.
“We hope our project will provide definitive evidence of the relationship between sleep apnoea and cardiovascular disease, closing our existing gaps in knowledge and informing future treatment approaches,” he said.
Nina Sarkissian, Director of Research Development for the Sleep Research Group across the Charles Perkins Centre and Royal North Shore Hospital, plays a key role in developing such cross-disciplinary collaborative research programs.
She said “Our CardioSleep Program will be unique, uniting three major disciplines of cardiology, respiratory and sleep medicine, and radiology to develop a precision medicine approach. This will help define which patients are at greatest risk and require personalised treatment.”
“We would like to see this valuable research program drive a new approach, and one which will dramatically reduce the number of people who lose their lives prematurely with a combination of sleep apnoea and cardiovascular disease.”Nina Sarkissian
The project has been made possible following funding from the Ramsay Research Grant Program.