One of the most difficult aspects of the sleep apnea condition is identifying it. This disorder often goes undiagnosed, as no blood test exist to indicate if an individual has sleep apnea. Even worse, apparent symptoms, like snoring or pauses in your breath, only occur during sleep. Unless a person with sleep apnea is being monitored after they go to bed, they are otherwise unaware of their symptoms.
While sleep apnea may seem like a harmless condition but over time it significantly effects the body. Left untreated, sleep apnea leads to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, and diabetes. The disorder can also lead to an increased chance of having work-related or driving accidents. With an early diagnosis, patients can avoid these comorbidities from developing. A new disposable diagnostic patch hopes to make identifying the condition a reality.
Detecting One’s Sleep Apnea Condition
The skin-adhesive diagnostic patch (known as the SomnaPatch) monitors several factors to determine if a patient has a sleep apnea condition. By measuring nasal pressure, blood oxygen saturation, pulse rate, respiratory effort, sleep time and body position, doctors have several variables to work with.
“Our study provided clinical validation of a new wearable device for diagnosing sleep apnea,” said principal investigator Maria Merchant, Ph.D., CEO of Somnarus Inc. “It was most surprising to us how well this inexpensive miniature device performed in comparison with in-lab sleep studies.”
Another impressive aspect of the patch is how accessible it is for patients.174 who subjects participated in the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s analysis. Using simultaneous polysomnography and patch recorders, they were able to discover signs of the disorder. Afterward, subjects took a home usability study, which determined that 38 of the 39 users successfully used the patch without any issues. Following the instructions, they were able to activate and collect a little more than 4 hours of sleep data.
“Most home sleep diagnostic devices are difficult for patients to use and are disruptive to patient’s sleep,” said Merchant. “Our study showed that this wearable home sleep monitor is very comfortable, easy to use and does not negatively affect sleep.”
Dr. Merchant explains that her team wants to put these positive results to good use. The researchers hope to present the patch and gain approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Detecting Sleep Apnea
This technology is still in the process of approval. If you live with a family member or life partner, have them monitor your sleep. They should tell if you are snoring loudly, restless, or wake up unexpectedly during sleep. You should also pay attention to how your body feels during the day. A lack of energy, sleepiness, morning headaches, and other symptoms are telltale signs of the condition.
You should see a doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms. See an otolaryngologist, who treats conditions that affect the ears, nose, and throat. They can perform certain procedures, like Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery and Balloon Sinuplasty, to improve your breathing and help you sleep better at night.
Allergies are a major cause of stress and discomfort for millions of people around the world. In America alone, we have approximately 50 million people suffering from this disease. Various medicines and treatments exist to ease allergy symptoms; however, these methods are no cure. Scientists at the University of Queensland are looking into a possible life-long treatment for severe allergies. Find out if there’s hope for a cure.
How Allergies Work
An allergy is a response from your immune system, an indicator that you are hypersensitive to certain substances. These allergens vary from person to person. Some people are allergic to certain plants, foods, drugs, materials or bugs. Even dust in the air is a potential allergen for someone suffering from the disease. When the body comes into contact with any of these allergens, it overreacts, causing allergy sufferers to experience coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, and more.
New Allergy Treatment
In a study using animal, Associate Professor Ray Steptoe at the UQ Diamantina Institute essentially ‘turned-off’ the immune response.
“Our work used an experimental asthma allergen, but this research could be applied to treat those who have severe allergies to peanuts, bee venom, shell fish and other substances,” says Professor Steptoe. “We take blood stem cells, insert a gene which regulates the allergen protein and we put that into the recipient. Those engineered cells produce new blood cells that express the protein and target specific immune cells, ‘turning off’ the allergic response.”
This research could mean significant progress towards curing allergy sufferers of their dilemma. Most current allergy treatments are effective but temporary. Patients have to keep taking these treatments and medications to relieve symptoms.
Professor Steptoe explains that “When someone has an allergy or asthma flare-up, the symptoms they experience results from immune cells reacting to protein in the allergen. The challenge in asthma and allergies is that these immune cells, known as T-cells, develop a form of immune ‘memory’ and become very resistant to treatments.”
The Next Step in Research
The gene therapy is still in its early stages. Now that the animal trails have proven successful, Professor Steptoe hopes to move onto the next step – human trials.
“We have now been able ‘wipe’ the memory of these T-cells in animals with gene therapy, de-sensitising the immune system so that it tolerates the protein,” says Professor Steptoe. “We haven’t quite got it to the point where it’s as simple as getting a flu jab, so we are working on making it simpler and safer so it could be used across a wide cross-section of affected individuals.”
Professor Steptoe is working from Australia, which has more than 2 million residents with allergies. By testing the gene therapy with human cells, scientists can discover if the treatment is effective in people. The researchers might also discover if the gene therapy negatively effects the immune system altogether. For now, more research needs to be done and hopefully, it can lead to a single treatment cure for people suffering from allergies.
If you have allergy symptoms, we suggest visiting an ENT doctor. They have experience helping patients find a way to live with allergy symptoms.
As children, our parents always told to go to sleep early and that getting enough rest is good for the body. We know that sleep is good for the body, but have you ever wondered how? Does better sleep mean better benefits for the body? Well, deep sleep can help with heart health, your immune system, and so much more. One aspect of deep sleep, in particular, helps our learning efficiency. It is possible for this process to be interrupted. In a recent study by researchers at the University of Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, they developed a non-invasive method for affecting deep sleep in humans.
Receiving Better Sleep Is Important
A lack of sleep does more than just make you sluggish and tired throughout the day. The nerve cells in our body, called synapses, remain active as we receive information from the environment around us. Once we go to sleep, those active synapses return to normal. However, if we do not receive proper rest, those nerve cells stay active and new information becomes harder to process. Sleep deprivation and other disorders impede your ability to retain new information. This malfunction in your ability to learn can affect how your mind operates.
How Researchers Manipulated the Brain
“We have developed a method that lets us reduce the sleep depth in a certain part of the brain and therefore prove the causal connection between deep sleep and learning efficiency,” says Reto Huber professor at the University Children’s Hospital Zurich and of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at UZH.
The study tested several subjects, six women, and seven men. Each of the subjects performed tasks that required them to master three different motoric tasks through finger movements. Once each day ended, the subjects went to sleep. During the first night, they were allowed to sleep uninterrupted. However, after the second night, the experiment truly began. Unbeknownst to the patients, the researchers manipulated the motor cortex using acoustic stimulation.
The effect of the manipulation was not apparent at first. During the morning, the subject performed the motoric tasks and finger movements as usual. As the day went on, however, the subjects made more and more mistakes. This is a contrast compared to the first day of testing, where the patients performed positively. After receiving better sleep again, the subjects exhibited the same results as the first day.
Nicole Wenderoth, professor in the Department of Health Sciences and Technology at the ETH Zurich, explains that “In the strongly excited region of the brain, learning efficiency was saturated and could no longer be changed, which inhibited the learning of motor skills.”
What We Can Learn From This Study
This study is another example of why sleep health and deep sleep is necessary. Brain disorders could affect sleep the same way the researchers did. Huber explains that “Many diseases manifest in sleep as well, such as epilepsy. Using the new method, we hope to be able to manipulate those specific brain regions that are directly connected with the disease.”
As adults grow older, they become more likely to develop hearing and balance disorders. Hearing loss can result from a multitude of factors, including bacterial and viral infections, environmental and work-related noise exposure, genetics, medication toxicity and trauma.
Some of these conditions affect the cochlea, which is the inner ear. As the innermost part of the vertebrate ear, this section of the body is responsible for sound detection and balance. If this part of the body is damaged, your ability to hear suffers greatly.
New research at the Indiana University School of Medicine has developed a way to grow inner ear tissue from human stem cells. The researchers’ findings may lead to better methods of treating hearing loss. Find out how they were able to achieve this success and what it means for the those with hearing impairments.
Research Into the Inner Ear
“The inner ear is only one of few organs with which biopsy is not performed and because of this, human inner ear tissues are scarce for research purposes,” said Eri Hashino, Ph.D., Ruth C. Holton Professor of Otolaryngology at IU School of Medicine. “Dish-grown human inner ear tissues offer unprecedented opportunities to develop and test new therapies for various inner ear disorders.”
In the past, researchers have had difficulties growing inner ear tissue. Traditionally, scientists cultivate human stem cells in a flat layer on a culture dish. However, this method proved unsuccessful in producing viable tissue. Research leads, Karl R. Koehler and Dr. Hashino, instead tested a different culturing technique called three-dimensional culture.
The three-dimensional culture is a technique that grows stem cells in a floating ball-shaped aggregate. This method allows the cells to grow more naturally. They incubate in an environment similar to the body. Through expert guidance, the scientists were able to create structures called “organoids.” These structures contain sensory and supporting cells akin to the ones in the inner ear.
What Does This Research Mean for the Future?
“This is essentially a recipe for how to make human inner ears from stem cells,” said Dr. Koehler, lead author of the study and whose research lab works on modeling human development. “After tweaking our recipe for about a year, we were shocked to discover that we could make multiple inner ear organoids in each pea-sized cell aggregate.”
“We also found neurons, like those that transmit signals from the ear to the brain, forming connections with sensory cells,” Dr. Koehler said. “This is an exciting feature of these organoids because both cell types are critical for proper hearing and balance.”
Dr. Hashino and his colleagues hope to use this new knowledge to study diseases and disorders that affect hearing. In addition to learning more about the ear, the scientists hope to develop new therapies and drugs.
“We hope to discover new drugs capable of helping regenerate the sound – sending hair cells in the inner ear of those who have severe hearing problems,” Dr. Hashino said. If successful, then this is another step towards healing people with hearing impairments.
Growing older is always an adjustment as the human body’s needs tend to change. Also, the elderly is more susceptible to debilitating conditions, like wakefulness and the inability to sleep. It doesn’t matter what age you are. Sleep is always necessary. In fact, a recent study at the University of California – Berkeley found that deep sleep can fight off mental and physical ailments, keeping the body effectively younger.
Do Older Adults Need Sleep?
Teenagers and children require more sleep than adults. The CDC even recommends that adolescents should receive 8-10 hours and school-aged children should be getting 9 to 12 hours a night. For adults, 18 and older only, the CDC suggest 7 or more hours of sleep per night. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t need it at all. Sleep is critical for anyone. When you put your sleep health in jeopardy, your body reacts accordingly.
What Happens When You Don’t Receive Enough Deep Sleep?
According to the researchers at UC Berkeley, quality sleep is important for the elderly. The scientists linked Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and stroke in the elderly to a lack of sleep.
“Nearly every disease killing us in later life has a causal link to lack of sleep,” said the article’s senior author, Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley professor of psychology and neuroscience. “We’ve done a good job of extending life span, but a poor job of extending our health span. We now see sleep, and improving sleep, as a new pathway for helping remedy that.”
Other studies show that poor sleep can cause older adults cognitive functions to weaken. Furthermore, adults start to experience inadequate sleep around their 30s. By the time these people age, their lack of sleep will affect their health more and more.
Why Natural Sleep Is Important
Modern medicine has come far, but it cannot replace natural sleep. The researchers at UC Berkeley state that pills used to aid sleep do not provide the same benefits as regular deep sleep. The brain needs deep sleep to replenish most of its functions.
It is hard for older adults to sleep naturally because of a change in their brain chemistry. The brain doesn’t produce the necessary waves that promote deep curative sleep. Also, the elderly receives less of the neurochemicals that grant us the ability to switch from sleep to wakefulness effectively.
“The parts of the brain deteriorating earliest are the same regions that give us deep sleep,” said article lead author Mander, a postdoctoral researcher in Walker’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at UC Berkeley.
“The American College of Physicians has acknowledged that sleeping pills should not be the first-line kneejerk response to sleep problems,” Walker said. “Sleeping pills sedate the brain, rather than help it sleep naturally. We must find better treatments for restoring healthy sleep in older adults, and that is now one of our dedicated research missions.”
Hopefully, the researchers and doctors looking into sleep can find a way to improve the quality sleep health in older adults. This research will help prevent cognitive issues and prevent developing diseases in the future.
There are several key signs of sleep apnea that you should look for in your child. For example, snoring may seem like a common occurrence, but it is usually a sign of something obstructing the airways. You may also want to look out for recurring daytime sleepiness. Untreated sleep apnea can cause your child’s health to deteriorate over time. In fact, scientists have found that the disorder has the potential to harm a child’s brain cells if left unchecked.
Untreated Sleep Apnea and Developing Conditions
Conditions that affect your breathing often seem like a minor inconvenience rather than a pressing matter. However, the truth is that sleep disorders affect you over an extended period of time. The longer you wait to treat the problem, the worse your symptoms become. The disorder can even develop into chronic diseases. Some researchers have even associated untreated sleep apnea with diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.
Brain Cells Affecting Mood and Cognition
At the University of Chicago Medical Center, scientists performed a study examining the sleep and brain patterns of children with and without severe sleep apnea, both ages 7 to 11 years old. The children stayed overnight at the university’s pediatric sleep laboratory while undergoing neuro-cognitive testing and MRI scans.
What they found was a significant difference between the two groups of kids. Those with moderate to severe sleep apnea had reductions in grey matter, a major part of the central nervous system. The children who slept with trouble showed no signs of reduced brain activity.
“The images of gray matter changes are striking,” said one of the study’s senior authors, Leila Kheirandish-Gozal, MD, director of pediatric clinical sleep research at the University of Chicago. “We do not yet have a precise guide to correlate loss of gray matter with specific cognitive deficits, but there is clear evidence of widespread neuronal damage or loss compared to the general population.”
Grey matter is brain cells that aid in a variety of essential functions. These functions include the brain’s ability to control movement, memory, emotions, speech, perception, decision-making and self-control. Grey matter is found in several regions of the brain including the frontal, prefrontal, and parietal cortices, as well as the temporal lobe and the brain stem.
Are Their Consequences to Lost Grey Matter
“MRI scans give us a bird’s eye view of the apnea-related difference in volume of various parts of the brain, but they don’t tell us, at the cellular level, what happened to the affected neurons or when,” said co-author David Gozal, MD, professor of pediatrics, University of Chicago. “The scans don’t have the resolution to determine whether brain cells have shrunk or been lost completely,” he added. “We can’t tell exactly when the damage occurred. But previous studies from our group showed that we can connect the severity of the disease with the extent of the cognitive deficits when such deficits are detectable.”
This study brings up a lot of questions. The scientists hope that more advanced brain scanning methods can help them measure if the lost grey matter has any effect on children. Future will determine definitive answers.
It always seems like sleep escapes us, and when we don’t receive enough this can negatively affect our health. Sleep disturbance has long been associated with the development of harmful conditions. While a lack of sleep can seem like no big deal, depriving yourself of the proper amount will only make things worse. Some researchers are still discovering links between certain diseases and a lack of sleep. Recently, the University of Colorado found that prolonged sleep disturbance can lead to lower bone formation.
Our bones are the structure of our body, giving us shape and supporting mobility. They also provide a variety of benefits that most are unaware of. For example, the bones produce blood that the body uses and they protect the internal organs from damage.
Like many other parts of the body, the bones replace old cells with new ones. Bone formation allows for the development of new and healthy bones. When this process in disturbed, the bones become weaker and more prone to damage. This condition is called osteoporosis.
Why Sleep Disturbance Is a Risk
Researchers at the University of Colorado tested 10 healthy men for three weeks. During that time, the subjects stayed at a lab to be monitored. In order to mimic sleep restriction, the men were tasked with sleeping four hours later than they did the previous day. They were also only allowed to sleep for 5.6 hours per 24-hour period.
Behavior like this is common for people who work late shifts or travel a lot. Odd work hours can force some to sleep at different times for short periods of time and people who travel are likely to suffer from jetlag. This sleep disturbance interferes with the circadian rhythms. This is our body internal clock, which tells us when we should sleep. The results of the study showed that after three weeks, all the men had significantly reduced levels of a bone formation marker called P1NP.
What Researchers Had to Say
“This altered bone balance creates a potential bone loss window that could lead to osteoporosis and bone fractures,” lead investigator Christine Swanson, M.D., an assistant professor at the University of Colorado in Aurora, Colo., said. Swanson completed the research while she was a fellow at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Ore., with Drs. Eric S. Orwoll and Steven A. Shea.
“If chronic sleep disturbance is identified as a new risk factor for osteoporosis, it could help explain why there is no clear cause for osteoporosis in the approximately 50 percent of the estimated 54 million Americans with low bone mass or osteoporosis,” Swanson said.
“These data suggest that sleep disruption may be most detrimental to bone metabolism earlier in life when bone growth and accrual are crucial for long-term skeletal health,” she said.
This study is a shining example of why people should try to get more sleep. The CDC believes sleep health is important and found that more than 25 percent of the U.S. population receives an inadequate amount of sleep. To find out how much sleep you need, visit the CDC’s sleep guidelines.
As we grow older the risk of developing debilitating conditions increases. As a result, staying healthy becomes more and more of a pressing concern for older adults. The truth is that the body doesn’t work as well as it used to and some of our functions may potentially fail as we age. Thankfully, scientists and researchers are always looking into how to treat and detect these situations before they arise.
Take dementia for instance. There are several causes of this degenerative disorder, including neurological diseases, vascular disorders, brain injuries, and more. However, there is one commonality that patients with these diseases share – their age. Approximately 5 percent to 8 percent of adults over 65 have some form of dementia. Even worse, that risk doubles every five years after people reach the age of 65.
One important aspect of treating this disease is detecting it early. Researchers have found a new way to determine if patients are affected by the disease.
Symptoms of Dementia
Dementia comes in two different forms. The first is cortical dementias, which usually shows up in the form of Alzheimer’s or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. This form of dementia can cause server memory loss, cognitive issues and may impair your ability to remember words.
The second form of dementia is subcortical. The diseases that are most commonly associated with this are Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and HIV. Patients with these diseases are very likely to difficulty thinking quickly or starting a task.
Detecting the Disorder
The hard part about detecting dementia is that these changes may not appear at first or can develop slowly over time. This can lead to some people not detecting signs of the disorder until it is too late. The biggest indicator of the condition in its early stages is memory and thinking problems. Now, scientists at the Baycrest-University of Memphis are saying that hearing and communication issues are a sign as well.
The brainstem and the auditory cortex are the regions of the brain known to process speech. Once thought to resistant to dementia’s effects, the region has shown trouble processing speech from sound to words. In order to look more into this change, researchers used an electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure the brain’s electrical activity in the brainstem and auditory cortex. With 80 percent accuracy, they were able to predict mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that can develop into Alzheimer’s.
“This opens a new door in identifying biological markers for dementia since we might consider using the brain’s processing of speech sounds as a new way to detect the disease earlier,” says Dr. Claude Alain, the study’s senior author and senior scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute (RRI) and professor at the University of Toronto’s psychology department.
Dr. Alain continues, stating that “Losing the ability to communicate is devastating and this finding could lead to the development of targeted treatments or interventions to maintain this capability and slow progression of the disease.”
There is no cure for dementia but with continued study, scientists can find new and innovative ways to help people with the disease live normally.
Sometimes, hearing loss occurs because of damage to the tiny hair cells within the inner ear. Using a cochlear implant device allows deaf patients to bypass the effects of inner ear damage, giving them the ability to hear some form of sound. A cochlear implantation requires drilling a hole behind the ear, through the skull bone, and to the inner ear. Researchers may have found another way to perform this procedure.
Using Robotics for Cochlear Implantation
During a cochlear implantation, the hole is drilled to allow the device access to the inner ear. To improve the drilling procedure, scientists at the University of Bern turned to robotics. They developed a high-precision surgical robot to create the entryway for the cochlear device. Their hope is that it provides better hearing outcomes.
The surgical robot would make the hole about 2.5mm in diameter. In order to perform a task of such magnitude, the robot has the do the surgery by itself and without any hands-on interaction or visual from a surgeon. This obviously presents concerns. Surgeons need to be able to track the drill’s progress to make sure in is on track and just in case there is an error.
The researchers built the robot with interlocking safety components. This allows the drill to avoid damaging key areas like the nerves and inner ears.
Prof Weber of the University of Bern, explains: “The robot relies on a number of sensors which are a high-accuracy, optical tracking system, a sensor for resistance that can “feel” the texture of the bone while drilling, and a radar-like nerve stimulation probe that sends small electric pulses into the bone from which the robot can compute whether or not it is on the preplanned track.”
This may be the next major development in cochlear implantation. It has proven effective for one patient and hopefully, it will prove helpful for future patients.
Insomnia is not only a serious condition, it’s practically unbearable. Over time, a lack of sleep will affect the mind and body, causing emotional and physical disorders. For example, the CDC list diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression as chronic diseases connected to poor sleep. Scientists may have found an insomnia treatment that works, and it may not be a treatment at all.
Testing Real and Fake Insomnia Treatment
Neurofeedback is an exercise with positive results that trains the brain. During this treatment, the brain’s activity is monitored using electrodes. Researchers are trying to find out if tricking the brain with a fake or placebo neurofeedback treatment will produce positive results.
In a relatively small study, featuring 30 patients with insomnia, researchers tested both forms of neurofeedback. All patients completed 12 sessions of neurofeedback and 12 sessions of placebo neurofeedback treatment over the course of four weeks. During eight nights in a sleep laboratory, the patient’s sleep-wake cycle was monitored.
Both forms of neurofeedback proved to be an effective insomnia treatment. Scientists found no difference between the two. However, there is one concern among the researchers. They are unsure whether or not patients are reacting to the treatment or their care at the hands of experimenters. This is because most of the participants felt they were treated well and with compassion during their nights in the sleep laboratory.
“Given our results,” said lead author Manuel Schabus, “one has to question how much of published neurofeedback effects are due to simple expectations on the side of the participants or, in other words, unspecific placebo effects.”
These calls into question what is really affecting how patients sleep. Is a little kindness all it takes or did the neurofeedback truly have an effect? In the end, more studies on insomnia need to be performed to find out what works best.