Ohio State University Medical Center sleep experts are exploring the role of blood glucose levels and fat cells in patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Fat cells have been acknowledged mostly as inactive energy storage sites in the body. However, new information shows that fat cells secrete a variety of substances with significant effects on metabolism. While most of these secretions have adverse effects on the body, some actually improve insulin resistance. Researchers are looking for clues to determine whether some of the secretions from fat cells could actually have protective and preventive effects for patients with certain conditions.

“It is of great interest to us that the levels of some of these substances secreted by fat cells with desirable effects go down with increasing obesity and also in our patients with obstructive sleep apnea,” says Ulysses Magalang, MD, medical director of Ohio State’s Sleep Disorders Center.

OSA and diabetes are known to have a strong association, even in non-obese patients.

“Understanding the basic mechanics of why insulin resistance develops in patients with OSA is important because it will help develop new treatment strategies for improving blood glucose control,” says Magalang.