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Dr Ana Paula Abdala Sheikh

Cardio-respiratory dysautonomia

There is considerable overlap between the neural circuits that control breathing and those that control the cardiovascular system. Often dysfunctions in these systems are connected and should be addressed as a whole. Respiratory dysrhythmias are positively associated with increased cardiovascular risk and sudden death. Some types of respiratory arrhythmia are highly prevalent, like obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). It affects between 9 to 38% of the adult population worldwide. In some elderly groups, OSA affects 90% of men and 78% of women. Most people remain undiagnosed and it is estimated that 1.5 million UK adults have OSA. There is no effective drug treatment, and the currently available treatment options are sub-optimal. My research group aims to address such unmet clinical needs.

We use preclinical models to identify and validate novel therapeutic targets to treat respiratory dysrhythmias and sympatho-vagal dysfunction. We are interested in the circuit dynamics of respiratory and cardiovascular centres, from rhythm and pattern formation to systems level. During preclinical stages, we also collaborate with mathematicians to develop realistic multiscale computational models of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, which support the validation of newly identified targets. Through collaborations with a solid network of clinical researchers, we are able to take new discoveries into proof-of-principle studies in humans.

Research keywords

  • blood pressure
  • heart rate
  • breathing
  • brainstem
  • vagus nerve
  • carotid body
  • MECP2
  • 5-HT1A

Diseases related to this field of research

  • Obstructive sleep apnoea
  • central apnoea
  • Rett syndrome
  • Pitt-Hopkins syndrome
  • CDKL5
  • apnoeas of prematurity
  • sudden infant death
  • hypertension
  • heart failure

Processes and functions relevant to this work

  • breathing
  • control of blood pressure
  • control of heart rate


  • Mathematics and Computing
  • Pharma