An experimental nasal spray for sleep apnea has shown promising results after researchers at Flinders University in Australia tested the treatment on humans for the first time.

Designed to prevent the upper airway from narrowing or collapsing during sleep, a key factor in apnea, the treatment could prove a potential alternative to continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, which can only be tolerated by to about half of all apnea sufferers.

“Although further evaluation and rigorous clinical trials are needed, this is a great first step and should give some hope to the many people around the world who suffer from sleep apnea,” says Professor Danny Eckeart, lead author of the study and director the FHMRI: Sleep Health sleep laboratory at Flinders.

Experimental nasal spray for apnea shows promising results

“Obstructive sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep-related breathing disorders, affecting approximately one billion people, and if left untreated, is associated with major health and safety consequences,” says the professor.

While CPAP machines are effective, tolerance remains a major issue for many people for whom other treatments such as dental braces and upper airway surgery do not always work. That’s why the experimental apnea nasal spray is needed.

“There are currently no approved drug treatments for sleep apnea. However, with advances in our understanding of the various reasons why people sleep apnea, the potential for new effective drugs increases every year,” says Eckeart.

An important study for people with apnea

Published in JOURNAL matterthe study tested the drug on 12 people with obstructive sleep apnea using either nasal drops, administered via a nasal spray, or direct application using an endoscope, compared to a placebo.

By monitoring sleep and airway activity over multiple sessions, the team found consistent and sustained improvements in patients’ airways remaining open throughout sleep compared to placebo treatment, regardless of the delivery method used.

“Although a small study, our findings represent the first detailed investigation of this new treatment in people with obstructive sleep apnea, with promising results,” says lead study author Dr. Amal Osman of FHMRI: Sleep Health, according to Medical Xpress.

“The drug we tested is designed to target specific receptors that are expressed on the surface of the upper airway, triggering them to more easily activate the surrounding muscles to keep the airway open during sleep. Although there is still a long way to go in terms of clinical trials and development, our study shows that targeting these receptors may be a promising avenue for future treatments,” concluded Osman.

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