Gut epithelial barrier disrupted in obstructive sleep apnea

Reuters Health Information: Gut epithelial barrier disrupted in obstructive sleep apnea

Gut epithelial barrier disrupted in obstructive sleep apnea

Last Updated: 2016-10-11

By Reuters Staff

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is associated with increased intestinal permeability, researchers from Spain report.

OSA can lead to intermittent arterial hypoxemia, a fact that led Dr. Antonia Barceló from Hospital Universitari Son Espases in Palma de Mallorca and colleagues to hypothesize that OSA could affect the intestinal barrier function by altering its structure and permeability.

In their case-control study of 38 patients with OSA and 38 matched controls, they evaluated plasma levels of intestinal fatty acid binding protein (I-FABP), a highly sensitive marker for intestinal ischemia, and zonulin, which is expressed by viable gut epithelial cells to disassemble tight junctions between cells and thereby increase permeability and macromolecule absorption.

Plasma levels of I-FABP were significantly higher in OSA patients (mean, 571 pg/mL) than in controls (mean, 396 pg/mL), and levels increased significantly with increasing apnea-hypopnea index (AHI), the team reports in Sleep Medicine, online September 28.

In contrast, there were no significant differences between the groups in zonulin levels. But zonulin levels were associated with the presence of obesity and metabolic disturbances both in OSA patients and controls.

Moreover, among OSA patients, zonulin levels correlated positively with aminotransferase levels.

"The results of this study suggest that OSA is a risk factor for intestinal damage, regardless of metabolic profile, and that intestinal permeability might be a possible contributor to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in patients with OSA," the researchers conclude.

Dr. Barceló did not respond to a request for comments.


Sleep Med 2016.

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