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Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Kids May Have Genetic Cause

Future treatments might come in the form of a throat spray, researchers say

TUESDAY, Feb. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Children with obstructive sleep apnea may someday be able to avoid a tonsillectomy and get an injection or use a throat spray to stop their potentially dangerous snoring, new research suggests.

In a report in the online edition of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, researchers say that they've found genes and gene networks linked to obstructive sleep apnea in the tonsil tissues of affected children. An estimated 2 percent to 3 percent of children in the United States have the condition.

The genes seem to cause tonsil tissues to proliferate, causing "partial or complete obstruction of the upper airways during sleep," study author Dr. David Gozal, professor and chairman of the department of pediatrics at the University of Chicago, explained in a news release from the American Thoracic Society.

The researchers searched for genes related to the condition in 18 children with obstructive sleep apnea and 18 children who had had their tonsils removed.

The genes discovered in the study could be "an exciting prospective target for therapy in children with obstructive sleep apnea," Gozal said in the news release. "We believe if we had effective nonsurgical alternatives to tonsillectomies, it would be of great benefit."

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about sleep apnea in children.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: American Thoracic Society, news release, Feb. 4, 2010

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