A study which may lead to sleep apnoea being diagnosed through a simple photograph is one of three National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grants worth nearly $3 million awarded to The University of Western Australia.
Professor Peter Eastwood, from UWA’s Centre for Sleep Science, and Associate Professor Ajmal Mian, from UWA’s School of Computer Science and Software Engineering, were awarded $424,715 to investigate the role played by the structure of people’s face, neck and head in sleep disorders.
Sleep disorders are estimated to cost the Australian health system $5.1 billion annually, affecting at least 1.5 million Australians or 8.9 per cent of the population.
Professor Eastwood said sleep apnoea, associated with snoring and repeated periods of ‘choking’ during sleep, was a common cause of poor sleep with the vast majority of sufferers remaining undiagnosed.
“This is mainly because the current methods of assessing sleep apnoea are expensive and access to them is limited,” he said.
The UWA team will examine the facial composition of more than 5,000 participants using sophisticated 3D photographs to explore the relationship between the structure of the face, neck and head and sleep apnoea.
“We hope that our findings may mean that one day we are able to diagnose this debilitating disorder which causes daytime sleepiness and is strongly linked to sleepiness-related accidents, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and depression through analysing a simple photograph,” he said.
Professor Susan Prescott, from UWA’s School of Paediatrics and Child Health, was also awarded $1.68 million for a clinical trial looking at whether increased dietary fibre in pregnancy can prevent allergies in children.
With up to 40 per cent of the world’s population affected by allergic disease, Professor Prescott’s project aims to confirm findings in animal studies that increased dietary fibre during pregnancy favourably influences metabolism and immune function.
World-leading burns specialist Professor Fiona Wood, from UWA’s Burn Injury Research Unit, received a development grant of $873,305 for a project to create the first drug ever to remove scars.
It comes after researchers discovered a compound that targets collagen in the skin, preventing it becoming too densely packed and more like normal skin. The new project will provide the data required for a commercial entity to license the technology and progress the potential treatment to clinical trials.
David Stacey (UWA Media and Public Relations Manager) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716