- West Australian sleep researcher awarded grant for 3D face modelling
- State Government awards medical researchers more than $8.4 million for a range of projects.
- Driving medical innovation crucial to the ongoing development of a sustainable public health service
A three-dimensional scan of the face could replace expensive time-consuming sleep studies as a means of diagnosing the most common type of sleep disorder.
Obstructive sleep apnoea is a serious health condition usually accompanied by snoring. It occurs when the upper airway collapses, breathing stops and the body is starved of oxygen
Serious sleep apnoea leads to increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. It can also result in road and work accidents.
While obesity is a well-known risk factor for the condition, it can also be the result of a person's facial anatomy.
That is why a team of WA researchers – led by Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and University of Western Australia respiratory and sleep physiologist Professor Peter Eastwood – is analysing the facial contours of more than 5,000 Western Australians to identify measurements at various points on the face, head and neck that could be indicative of the condition.
With the support of a State Government Medical and Health Research Infrastructure Fund grant, the team has developed computer software which can map the face and 'morph' structural variations, providing a way of predicting the severity of sleep apnoea.
Despite being readily treatable, current definitive diagnosis requires an overnight stay in a customised sleep laboratory which is costly and labour intensive.
Faces being mapped for the study are of hospital sleep clinic patients and participants in WA's landmark Raine Study. They provide the team with a strong mix of people with and without sleep apnoea, in a range of ages.
Sleep apnoea affects about nine per cent of Australians, but 75 per cent of people with the debilitating condition don't know they have it.
Professor Eastwood and his team aim to develop a simple, convenient and, non-invasive means of diagnosing serious sleep apnoea using a three-dimensional image of a person's face.
Comments attributed to Health Minister Roger Cook:
"This project is an example of some of the really innovative research underway in Western Australia. It is also a great example of our public university and hospital systems working together.
"Professor Eastwood and his team have the potential to make a big difference to the lives of everyday Western Australians and provide substantial savings to our health system.
"Sleep disorders cost the Australian health system $818 million a year – most of this is directly attributable to sleep apnoea.
"The McGowan Government recognises this type of grassroots research has the potential to help deliver a more sustainable public health system in the future."
Minister's office - 6552 6500
- Professor Eastwood is one of 127 high-performing researchers to share in funding of more than $6 million from the Medical and Health Research Infrastructure Fund (MHRIF). These grants help researchers meet the essential day-to-day infrastructure costs.
- Only researchers who have secured funding for their research from the National Health and Medical Research Council or a funding body of similar standing are eligible for MHRIF.
- In addition to the MHRIF, close to $2.4 million in State Government funding will be shared by six medical research institutes as part of the Research Institute Support program.
- This program provides financial support to institutes to enable them to buy resources essential for supporting quality research.