A recent study reveals a promising new approach to treating obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), suggesting that combining senolytic treatments with traditional CPAP therapy could significantly improve patient outcomes.

The study, by researchers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine and the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, delves into adjunct therapies, particularly the use of senolytics, to alleviate the burden of OSA. The study is published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The study assessed whether targeting senescence, a treatment that targets aging cells, coupled with a simulated approach that imitates good adherence to the most common treatment for sleep apnea—CPAP—could improve physiological outcomes in mice exposed to chronic intermittent hypoxia, a hallmark feature of OSA. 

The study found that combining partial normoxic recovery with the senolytic Navitoclax (NAV) significantly reduced sleepiness during the dark phase, the usual sleeping time for rodents. The combined therapy also showed notable improvements in cognitive function. Such findings were not apparent when only CPAP was administered.

“Our findings suggest that the reversibility of end-organ morbidities induced by OSA goes beyond normalizing oxygenation patterns,” says David Gozal, MD, MBA, PhD, vice president of health affairs at Marshall University, dean of the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, and corresponding author on the study, in a release. “Targeting accelerated senescence appears to be a promising avenue for improving treatment outcomes in individuals with OSA.”  

Mohammad Badran, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, adds in a release, “It is quite evident in our preclinical model of OSA that recovering normal oxygenation patterns seen in traditional treatments, namely continuous positive airway pressure, is ineffective in preventing or mitigating multiple end-organ dysfunctions. Adjuvant therapies, in this case senolytics, have the potential of becoming valuable and effective treatments targeting OSA-induced morbidities.”

In addition, the therapy demonstrated positive effects on coronary artery function, glucose, and lipid metabolism and reduced intestinal permeability. The combination of simulated adherent CPAP treatment and NAV effectively reduced senescence in multiple organs, indicating a potential reversal of OSA-induced cellular aging processes.

This research could open new doors in understanding the deleterious processes involved in OSA-associated morbidities and formulate novel approaches aimed at reversing the multifaceted impact of OSA on health, according to the researchers. Development of safe senolytics specifically focused on OSA along with clinical studies are warranted to validate these findings in human subjects and explore potential applications in the field of sleep medicine.

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