Researchers have identified 57 genetic variations of a gene strongly associated with declines in blood oxygen levels during sleep. Low oxygen levels during sleep are a clinical indicator of the severity of sleep apnea, a disorder that increases the risk of heart disease, dementia, and death.
The study, published today in the American Journal of Human Genetics, was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health.
“A person’s average blood oxygen levels during sleep are hereditary, and relatively easy to measure,” said study author Susan Redline, M.D., senior physician in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and professor at Harvard Medical School. “Studying the genetic basis of this trait can help explain why some people are more susceptible to sleep disordered breathing and its related morbidities.”