Xiaofeng Zhu, PhD, collaborated in a study that identified 57 genetic variations of a gene strongly associated with declines in blood oxygen levels during sleep. Low oxygen levels during sleep are a clinical indicator of the severity of sleep apnea, a disorder that increases the risk of heart disease, dementia, and death.
Dr. Zhu is a professor in the Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences.
The study, published in late October 2019 in the American Journal of Human Genetics, was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health.
Average blood oxygen levels during sleep are a hereditary trait, and understanding the genetic basis of this trait can explain why some people are more susceptible to sleep-disordered breathing such as sleep apnea and related morbidities. Despite the key role blood oxygen levels play in health outcomes, the influence of genetics on their variability had not been extensively studied.
These findings help clarify the mechanism of these conditions and may eventually lead to targeted therapeutics.