HomeMembersAssemblies and SectionsAssembliesSleep and Respiratory NeurobiologyNews ▶ 2012 James B Skatrud New Investigator Award Winner
2012 James B Skatrud New Investigator Award Winner


Silke Ryan, MD, PhD

Dr Ryan graduated in medicine from the University of Jena, Germany in 1998, and received her M.D. by thesis in 1999. In 2003, she entered a three-year research fellowship at University College Dublin, Ireland, resulting in the award of her Ph.D. She completed the Irish Specialist Registrar Training Programme in Internal and Respiratory Medicine in October 2010, received the European Diploma in Respiratory Medicine in 2010 and Membership of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in 2003. She is currently a Consultant in Respiratory and Sleep Medicine at St. Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin and since December 2011, she has also been appointed as Research Fellow at University College Dublin.

Dr. Ryan has focused her research on molecular responses to intermittent hypoxia (IH) and the importance of these events in the development of cardiovascular complications in obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS). Her work has significantly advanced our understanding of the role of IH in generating systemic inflammation. Using a translational approach, ranging from in vitro experiments utilizing a cell culture model of IH to carefully defined patient cohort studies, she has demonstrated a preferential activation of pro-inflammatory pathways by IH mediated by the transcription factor nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB) over adaptive, hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1)-dependent pathways, which contrasts with sustained hypoxia where activation of adaptive and protective pathways predominate. In a well-controlled population of male OSAS patients and matched controls, she identified a strong association between IH severity and circulating NF-kB-dependent genes, namely tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a) and interleukin (IL)-8, which are important in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, and also, a significant fall of these levels with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. Furthermore, her work has contributed to our understanding of the signalling mechanisms of IH-induced NF-kB-activation by identifying a key role of the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) in this process. Dr. Ryan has published multiple high impact papers, and her original publication in Circulation (2005) is already recognized as a seminal paper on this topic with more than 200 citations.

Dr Ryan has recently been awarded a 4-year independent research grant from the Health Research Board of Ireland which will allow her to continue her work into the basic mechanisms of cardiovascular disease in OSAS with an emphasis of the impact of intermittent hypoxia on adipose tissue.

Dr Ryan states that receiving this award is a tremendous honour and further motivation to continue research in this exiting field. She wishes to thank her mentors and collaborators and she looks forward to presenting her research at future ATS meetings.