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Rami Khayat, MD

Award Name Davis/Bremer Award 2009
Award Date 08/01/2009

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Sleep apnea increases risk of heart disease, stroke

Rami Khayat, MD, received a Davis/Bremer Pilot Award from The Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science in 2009 for his research, “Mechanism of Endothelial Dysfunction in Obstructive Sleep Apnea.” 

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disorder associated with abnormal pauses in breathing or instances of abnormally low breathing due to restricted airflow, which affects an individual’s ability to breathe when asleep. About 15 percent of middle aged adults are currently living with sleep apnea. 

OSA often results in reduced oxygen levels that cause stress and inflammation, resulting in stiffness in the blood vessels which can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension). Nearly 40 percent of middle aged adults in the US suffer from hypertension, half of which already have OSA. 

Khayat studied the relationship between OSA and high blood pressure, looking for new information about OSA as a cause of hypertension and how to identify early signs of cardiovascular disease in OSA patients. 

Using a newly developed technique that was pioneered at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (OSUWMC), Khayat took skin biopsies to evaluate and determine the earliest genetic and functional changes occurring in the blood vessels. By studying these changes alongside the mechanism of OSA, the research team was able to help predict some early onset cases of cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

“Endothelial dysfunction is an early pre-clinical abnormality that can predict the development of cardiovascular disease,” Khayat said.  “The lining of the blood vessels becomes constricted and they harden, which can lead to coronary heart disease and stroke.”

Khayat began researching newly diagnosed OSA patients and comparing the results to a healthy control group. From these individuals, the research team conducted genetic and functional tests to help evaluate how hypertension develops in patients with OSA, as well as non-OSA patients with hypertension.

“We can now identify genes and protein changes that can predict the development of hypertension before the appearance of any clinical signs,” Khayat said. “This type of research may help identify individuals at risk for cardiovascular disease before it even develops, allowing us to treat patients earlier with a more personalized approach.”

The pilot award successfully positioned Khayat and his research team for funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and they have since published many of their findings using the data. He plans to continue to seek additional NIH funding soon to expand upon his research. 

By Shara Ogg, Wednesday, August 22, 2012
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