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2009 James B Skatrud New Investigator Award Winner

Amy S. Jordan, MD

The SRN Assembly would like to congratulate Dr. Amy Jordan, the third recipient of the James B Skatrud New Investigator Award. We are delighted that this Award has been endowed in the memory of James Skatrud, and we thank everyone who contributed to make this possible.

Dr Jordan completed her PhD at the University of Adelaide, Australia in the laboratory of Dr Doug McEvoy in 2002. She then conducted a 3 year post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School in the laboratory of Dr David White before being promoted to Instructor in Medicine at Harvard. In 2009 Amy was appointed as the CR Roper Fellow in the Faculty of Medicine at The University of Melbourne, Australia where she currently works.

Dr Jordan’s research has focused on better understanding the pathogenesis and high male prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a very common disorder with considerable neurocognitive and cardiovascular consequences. While an adequate treatment for OSA is available (nasal CPAP), many patients do not tolerate treatment or are not compliant with it. Thus, an improved understanding of the mechanisms causing obstructive sleep apnea will allow the design new treatments for OSA which may provide an alternative to nasal CPAP for at least some patients.

Specifically Dr Jordan’s research has demonstrated that several aspects of respiratory control, including respiratory afterdischarge, long-term facilitation and the respiratory system loop gain are not different between men and women. These aspects of respiratory control are thought to contribute to sleep apnea but the implications of Dr. Jordan’s work is that these factors do not explain the differences in vulnerability to sleep apnea between the genders. Dr Jordan has also found that women have a less collapsible airway than men for any given body mass index, suggesting that anatomical or airway dilator muscle activity may partly explain the reduced susceptibility to Obstructive Sleep Apnea in women. Amy has received numerous awards for this work, including the Australasian Sleep Association’s New Investigator Award, the John Read Prize from the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand and an honourable mention from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

More recently Dr Jordan has reported that when patients with OSA spontaneously overcome their airway obstruction and have stable breathing, the activity of one of the upper airway dilator muscles (the genioglossus) is greatly elevated. This suggests that if dilator muscle activity can be increased sufficiently in sleep, some patients may be able to overcome their impaired anatomy and have stable breathing. Several laboratories are currently investigating possible ways to raise the sleeping genioglossus muscle activity to test this concept.

Since returning to Australia, Amy is continuing her work investigating genioglossus function in OSA but has also initiated a series of studies investigating the influence of changes in end-expiratory lung volume on sleep related airway collapse. This new line of research will increase greatly our knowledge on this relatively understudied aspect of airway function during sleep.

On receiving the award Amy stated that it was a tremendous honour to receive the James B Skatrud New Investigator Award, particularly given that it is in the name of such a magnificent physiologist. She wishes to thank her mentors and all the individuals who have assisted her with this work and she looks forward to presenting her continuing research at future ATS meetings.