June Insco has a CPAP machine for her obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and has an idea that might help CPAP users such as herself. “I didn’t get a lot of good instruction up front about cleaning it, and even though I do clean it every week, it sometimes has a musty odor,” Insco says in a release. “CPAPs are a fairly new phenomenon, so I wonder what kinds of studies have been done on the long-term effects of using them, particularly with respiratory issues.”

She submitted her research study idea to WellSpringboard, a crowdfunding platform by the University of Michigan (U-M). Tiffany Braley, MD, MS, a neurologist whose research focuses on sleep and its relationship with the immune system, saw Insco’s request and knew she could investigate. “It was a topic I’ve been asked about before, but I hadn’t considered researching this important issue until June’s WellSpringboard request came through,” Braley says.

Braley’s project will examine electronic medical records of 4,000 patients with OSA who started using CPAP at U-M. She’ll evaluate upper respiratory infection rates in patients before and after they start CPAP, to see if CPAP use leads to changes in infection rates.“CPAP is the most effective way to treat sleep apnea, but only about half of patients actually use this treatment regularly,” Braley says. “Concern about infection may be a barrier to regular CPAP use. If funded, this project will allow us to investigate a potential barrier that may be discouraging some patients from using CPAP, and provide vital information about the safety of CPAP treatment.”

This project (as well as a project on inflammatory bowel disease) have begun funding. Each idea, once paired with a research project, has 30 days to reachits fundraising goal. If they reach their crowdfunding goals, the researcher will receive the money and can get started on the research. If a project doesn’t meet its goal, the donations will be used to support other WellSpringboard research in the same category.

“We hope that the innovative combination of crowdsourcing research ideas, and crowdfunding the ones that researchers agree to study, will prove successful and be a model for other academic medical centers and research institutes,” says Matthew M. Davis, MD, the U-M physician and researcher who leads the team that helped WellSpringboard get off the ground.

The site is still taking research ideas, even as matched ideas begin the funding process.

Donate or learn more about the CPAP and upper respiratory infection project online.