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Eckert Group - Associate Professor Danny Eckert

p>Sleep is controlled by the brain and is essential for human life. Impaired sleep can adversely affect every organ in the body. Obstructive sleep apnoea is a common breathing disorder characterised by narrowing and closure of the upper airway during sleep, leading to reduced oxygen levels and disrupted sleep. Untreated sleep apnoea is associated with major co-morbidities, including neurocognitive impairment and increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

In addition to more broad sleep physiology interests, the key focus of our sleep research program at NeuRA is to investigate the multiple pathogenic causes of sleep apnoea and to develop and test novel, targeted therapeutic approaches for individual patients. We run a comprehensive basic sciences and translational research program in our world class sleep research facilities here at NeuRA. We utilise a variety of neurophysiological techniques to study human upper airway muscle function and airway mechanics during wakefulness and sleep and other key mechanisms contributing to sleep apnoea. We also conduct clinical trials to test the utility of new targeted treatments for patients with sleep apnoea.

Click below to access Dr Danny Eckert's research papers:

  
ORCID ID: 0000-0003-3503-2363

Sedatives and Sleep Apnoea

Approximately 5% of adults report using sleeping pills to promote sleep with higher rates in the elderly. We are conducting several NHMRC-funded studies in healthy individuals and patients with sleep apnoea to examine the effects of common sleeping pills on the upper airway muscles and breathing during sleep. While some sleeping pills may make sleep apnoea worse, others may actually be beneficial for certain patients. We are undertaking mechanistic upper airway physiology and clinical studies to provide insight into these seemingly paradoxical effects.

Effect of Morphine on Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

The use of opioid medications in our community is quite common and can cause serious breathing problems, particularly during sleep. The goal of this NHMRC-funded project is to investigate the effects of opioids on upper airway muscle activity, respiratory control, and breathing during sleep in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea. These studies will help us to understand reasons why breathing responses to opioids vary between individuals and which sleep apnoea patients are most at risk of developing breathing complications during sleep.

Upper-Airway Reflexes and Muscle Control

There are important protective reflexes in the human upper airway that help keep the airway open when suction pressures (as occurs in sleep apnoea) are present. We are conducting research to understand how these important reflexes in the upper airway including the tongue and surrounding muscles function to gain insight into the causes of obstructive sleep apnoea.

Defining the Causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea to Develop Novel Therapies

While continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is highly effective in treating sleep apnoea (See: What is obstructive sleep apnoea?), approximately 50% of patients are intolerant or non-adherent. Responses to alternative therapies are variable and are currently difficult to predict. We are undertaking research using a variety of novel physiological approaches to understand the key causes of sleep apnoea on a per patient basis. Using this approach our goals are to develop simple accurate tools to identify the varying causes of sleep apnoea, develop targeted novel therapies for individual patients, and to determine who is most likely to respond to existing non-CPAP therapies.

Senior Research Fellow, NeuRA
Conjoint Associate Professor, UNSW
NHMRC R.D. Wright Fellow
T: +612 9399 1814
E: d.eckert@neura.edu.au

Associate Professor Danny Eckert has been actively involved in human sleep and respiratory physiology research since 2001. In 2006, he completed his PhD at the University of Adelaide, based at the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health, investigating the effects of low oxygen levels on protective respiratory reflexes and sensory processing in humans during wakefulness and sleep. He was subsequently awarded the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand Allen and Hanburys Respiratory Research Fellowship, followed by an NHMRC CJ Martin Fellowship to pursue postdoctoral studies.

After three years of postdoctoral training at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, he was promoted to Faculty; first to Instructor in Medicine in 2009, and subsequently to Assistant Professor. After a highly productive five and a half years in the United States, in late 2011 Associate Professor Eckert returned to Australia to establish a sleep and respiratory physiology research program at NeuRA to continue his research investigating the causes of sleep apnoea and developing new treatments. He currently serves on the board of the Australasian Sleep Association and is Chair of the Research Committee.

Research team 
Danny Eckert's picture
Associate Professor Danny Eckert
Senior Research Fellow, NeuRA
Conjoint Associate Professor, UNSW
T: +612 9399 1814
E: d.eckert@neura.edu.au
Jane Carberry's picture
Dr Jayne Carberry
Research Officer, NeuRA
Conjoint Associate Lecturer, UNSW
T: +612 9399 1834
E: j.carberry@neura.edu.au
Niru Wijesuriya's picture
Dr Nirupama Wijesuriya
Research Officer
T: +612 9399 1834
E: n.wijesuriya@neura.edu.au
Jason Amatoury (PhD)'s picture
Dr Jason Amatoury
Research Officer, NeuRA
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, NeuroSleep NHMRC CRE
T: +612 9399 1834
E: j.amatoury@neura.edu.au
Dr Peter Burke's picture
Dr Peter Burke
Research Officer
T: +612 9399 1843
E: p.burke@neura.edu.au
Dr Chinh Nguyen's picture
Dr Chinh Nguyen
Honorary Research Fellow
NeuroSleep NHMRC CRE Postdoctoral Fellow
Benjamin Tong's picture
Benjamin Tong
Research Assistant
Sleep Lab Manager
Rodrigo Martins's picture
Dr Rodrigo Martins
PhD Student
T: +612 9399 1834
E: r.martins@neura.edu.au
Charlotte Rollo's picture
Charlotte Rollo
Research Assistant
T: +612 9399 1843
E: c.rollo@neura.edu.au
Jessica Patti's picture
Jessica Patti
Research Assistant
General Psychologist
T: +612 9399 1843
E: j.patti@neura.edu.au
Sophie Carter's picture
Sophie Carter
PhD Student
T: +612 9399 1843
E: s.carter@neura.edu.au
Michael Lin's picture
Michael Lin
Honours Student

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