UofL researcher’s urine test simplifies screening for obstructive sleep apnea


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – University of Louisville researchers have discovered that urine can be used to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in snoring children, eliminating the need for expensive overnight sleep studies of children whose snoring is not harmful. A new $150,000 award from the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation (KSTC) will help with commercialization of a urine test for OSA.

    UofL clinical chemist Saeed A. Jortani, Ph.D., discovered that the urine of children with obstructive sleep apnea contains different concentrations of stress-related proteins than children whose snoring is not associated with disease. His findings were published in the December issue of American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

    With the help of the KSTC award, Jortani and his team will confirm their earlier results with continued clinical testing. They also will fine tune plans for a simple urine test and develop a business and marketing plan for the new technology.

    “I believe it’s possible to develop a diagnostic test so simple that some day it could be available for use in the home, like a home pregnancy test,” Jortani said.

    Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common condition in which a partially blocked airway causes a person to snore as they struggle to breath. OSA has long been associated with learning and behavior problems as well as hypertension, cardiac disease and obesity. OSA affects up to three percent of children.

    More than 10 percent of children, ages 4-11, snore habitually without risk to their health.

    An overnight sleep study is the only way to distinguish habitual snoring from snoring caused by OSA. Sleep studies are time consuming, relatively expensive and not widely available, because they must be conducted in specially-equipped sleep labs.

    Upon diagnosis, OSA’s harmful effects can often be alleviated through weight management, anti-inflammatory treatment, use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines or surgery to remove tonsils and adenoids.

    “An inexpensive screening test would help patients with harmless snoring save time and money by avoiding unnecessary testing,” said Fidaa Shaib, M.D., a UofL sleep medicine specialist and co-investigator on the study. “Given the limited number of specialized pediatric sleep centers, this test would make it more likely that children with OSA are identified and treated expeditiously. If this test proves to be successful, pediatricians will be able to screen for OSA much as they screen for vision or hearing problems now.”