The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, along with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, awarded grant from National Institutes of Health for heart failure-sleep apnea research. Credit: Adreyn Yates | Lantern Reporter

Ohio State researchers are looking for an awakening in sleep apnea research with recent National Institutes of Health funding.

The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital have been awarded a $17.7 million grant to launch a six-year, multicenter, international clinical research trial for heart failure patients with central sleep apnea, a condition where the brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing while people are asleep.

The medical center will receive $12.1 million from the NIH grant to act as the clinical coordinating center. Brigham and Women’s Hospital, assisted by Harvard Medical School, will receive the remaining $5.6 million to be the data-coordinating center in this study.

William Abraham, professor of internal medicine and director of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Medical Center, said the NIH was looking for investigators to do meaningful research.

“Sometimes, those studies tell us what to do for patients, and then sometimes, they tell us what not to do for patients,” Abraham said. “I think either way [this research] will be influential in establishing clinical care for these patients.”

Treatments for obstructive sleep apnea, a different kind of disorder that causes breathing interruptions because of airway collapse, does not work for central sleep apnea, which affects about 40 percent of heart failure patients.

Researchers will be studying the treatment of nocturnal oxygen therapy, which involves administering oxygen-concentrated air, or “untreated air,” from an identical device at random, Abraham said. Patient enrollment will last for almost four years, and they will continue to be monitored for heart clinical outcomes, death rates and recurrent heart failure hospitalizations for a couple of years after that.

Two coordinating centers will be in charge of facilitating trials and recording data. Abraham and his team, Dr. Rami Khayat, professor of pulmonary medicine and specialist in sleep medicine, and Angela Sow, the Trial Innovation Network Hub Liaison team administrator, will lead the clinical coordinating center at the Wexner Medical Center. These researchers will be responsible for overseeing the random enrollment of 858 patients, activating 30 to 40 research centers around the U.S. and Canada and monitoring other operational aspects of the trial.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital will serve alongside Harvard Medical School as the data coordinating center. They will collaborate with Ohio State in study protocol and design.

“It’s a team of very bright people that come from different disciplines joining together that make the greatest innovations,” Dr. K. Craig Kent, dean of the College of Medicine, said. “The grant that Bill Abraham has from the NIH shows that we have talented people here who are really doing innovative things and being national leaders.”

Researchers are currently looking for locations to start trials and Abraham said they plan to begin enrolling patients in early 2019.