Our paper with collaborators Barb Morgan, Russ Adrian, Zun-yi Wang and John Dopp titled “Chronic intermittent hypoxia alters ventilatory and metabolic responses to acute hypoxia in rats” was accepted in the Journal of Applied Physiology this week.
Patients with sleep apnea experience periods during sleep where breathing stops. This can occur as many as 60 times per hour. These apneas, which cause periodic, intermittent falls in blood oxygen (hypoxia), can contribute to hypertension, obesity, cancer, and other diseases. It is also unknown whether having these apneas alters the neural circuitry that controls ventilation and promotes more apneas. Our study addresses the controversy of whether chronic exposure to intermittent hypoxia enhances ventilatory chemosensitivity. We quantified hypoxic chemosensitivity in conscious rats using a novel method which—unlike most previously published approaches—was able to uncover key effects of prolonged intermittent hypoxia on both metabolic and ventilatory responses to acute hypoxia. We found that hypoxic chemosensitivity is indeed enhanced by intermittent hypoxia and thus is a potentially important contributor to sleep disordered breathing in humans.