Researcher Investigates Relationship Between Sleep Apnea and Pharyngeal Tissue

There’s good news for sleep apnea sufferers out there: Guilherme Garcia, a PhD and research scientist at the Medical College of Wisconsin, recently received a grant to study how pharyngeal tissue affects obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a common disorder that affects many adults with pauses or shallow breaths during sleep. These pauses can occur over 30 times an hour and last from a few seconds to several minutes. Sleep apnea can often lead to more serious conditions, which is why Garcia’s research is so important.

Garcia’s goal is to use computer simulations and in vivo measurements to more deeply understand the properties of the soft tissue in the pharynx which affects airflow and causes snoring. These are also the tissues that combine with specific airflow conditions to collapse the airway and induce obstructive sleep apnea.

The goal of this project is to quantify the soft tissue properties in the pharynx using computer simulations and in vivo measurements. These soft tissue properties are important because it is the interplay between tissue properties and airflow that causes snoring and airway collapse in obstructive sleep apnea.

The computational models Garcia and his colleagues create will hopefully allow surgeons to identify primary sites of pharynx airway collapse and treat OSA patients more effectively.

Garcia will be funded by a 3-year Mentored Career Development Award from the Clinical and Translational Science Institute of Southeast Wisconsin, one of four grants that CSTI awarded this year. The grant will provide Garcia $25,000 in research support and up to $140,000 in salary and benefits per year.

The grant will also provide Garcia with a training mentor. Over the next three years, he’ll study clinical and translational research under MCW Professor and Chairman of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences John Rhee, MD, MPH. Garcia will also be mentored by professor of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences Tucker Woodson, also a professor at MCW and director of Froedtert Hospital’s Sleep Center.

Garcia himself is an assistant professor in the same disciplines as his mentors at MCW’s Biotechnology and Bioengineering Center. The results of his research will likely be made available after the grant period.

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