Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects



Document Type



Obstructive sleep apnea is identified by recurring events of airway collapse during sleep, intermittent hypoxia, and perturbations in sleep continuity, known as sleep fragmentation. There is evidence to suggest that elderly patients are more at risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea. The purpose of this study was to assess whether age affects neurological inflammatory responses to acute sleep fragmentation. This assessment was made by subjecting young (4-5 months old) and old (10-11 months old) male C57BL/6j mice to automated sleep fragmentation, as well as having mice in both age categories as a control with no sleep fragmentation, for twenty-four hours. Immediately after, brains were collected and hypothalami, hippocampi, and the prefrontal cortices were removed. The tissues were analyzed for the gene expression of the pro-inflammatory cytokine, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) using real time PCR. It was hypothesized that neuroinflammation would be exacerbated in older mice compared with young mice in response to sleep fragmentation. Results indicate that the inflammatory response to sleep fragmentation is variable among the examined brain tissues. In the prefrontal cortex and hypothalamus, sleep fragmentation had a significant effect on TNF-α gene expression. In the hypothalamus, age also had a significant effect on TNF-α gene expression. However, there was no significant interaction between sleep fragmentation and age and TNF-α gene expression in the regions assessed, which does not support the original hypothesis. These results can lead to better understanding of the relationship between age and obstructive sleep apnea, and lead to further investigations.

Advisor(s) or Committee Chair

Noah Ashley, Ph.D.


Biology | Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism | Immunology and Infectious Disease | Medicine and Health Sciences