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Edwards Lab research

CollaborationsStudent research projects | Publications

About Associate Professor Bradley Edwards

Associate Professor Edwards completed his PhD in respiratory physiology at Monash University in 2009. During this time he acquired considerable expertise in the area of respiratory control, with a particular focus on the understanding the mechanisms responsible for unstable breathing in newborn infants. Following his PhD, Associate Professor Edwards was awarded two successive fellowship (2010-11; Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand Allen and Hanburys Respiratory Research Fellowship, 2012-16; NHMRC CJ Martin Fellowship) to pursue post-doctoral studies at Harvard Medical School (Boston, USA) focused on understanding the pathogenesis of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). During his postdoctoral studies at Harvard, he co-developed the technique to 'phenotype' the underlying causes of OSA and has also been the project leader on several studies that have tested novel therapies targeting these individual phenotypic traits as a potential treatment alternatives, work which saw him promoted to Faculty in 2012.

Associate Professor Edwards returned to Monash University in 2015 as a Senior Research Fellow where he now leads the Sleep Disorders Research Program which focuses on (1) determining how major risk factors (i.e. obesity) alter/affect the pathophysiological mechanisms known to cause OSA, (2) the development/validation of simple clinically practical methods to evaluate/quantify these mechanisms and predicting patient’s response to available OSA therapies and (3) Delivering novel treatment strategies using therapies that target an individual’s key pathophysiological mechanisms in order to improve treatment effectiveness & patient outcomes.


Our research

Current projects

  1. Understanding the causes of obstructive sleep apnoea in both adults and infants.
  2. Determining simplified ways to measure the causes of sleep apnoea.
  3. Using physiology to predict response to upper airway and weight-loss surgery in patients with sleep apnoea.
  4. Testing novel pharmacological agents alone or in combination for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea.
  5. Assessing the bi-directional relationship between sleep apnoea and insomnia as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Visit Associate Professor Edwards’ Monash research profile to see a full listing of current projects.

Research activities

Sleep is a vital physiological process with important restorative functions that are essential for optimal day-time functioning. Insufficient or poor quality sleep has been associated with neurocognitive impairments, end-organ dysfunction and chronic health conditions, and increased mortality. Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) is a broad term that encompasses a range of breathing disorders, from primary snoring through to obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) as well as central sleep apnoea and affects both adults and children. One of the major focuses of our research is to better understand the pathogenesis of OSA, an increasingly prevalent disorder characterised by repetitive collapse of the airway during sleep and associated with serious health consequences.  Our current research strategy is built around the idea that the pathogenesis of OSA is driven by the interaction of several physiological traits. These traits provide multiple targets for individual or combinations of drugs/interventions that could effectively treat this disorder on an individual-patient basis.

Our laboratory has equipment for measuring respiratory control, the activity of upper airway muscles as well as airway mechanics during both wakefulness and sleep in humans. We also have collaborative links with Monash Health, Eastern Health and Alfred Health which enables us to recruit patients for our vast array of research projects and collaborate with the physicians and scientists of the clinical service.

Two of the key research streams in our laboratory are:

1. Developing novel therapies for the treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea:
Current clinical management of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), a common sleep disorder, uses constant positive airway pressure as first-line treatment but is poorly tolerated by many. Consequently, a more sophisticated/personalised approach to better target treatments to differing underlying physiological deficits and their characteristic respiratory phenotypes is required.

This research stream aims to:

  • understand the physiology causing an individual’s OSA and
  • use this information to refine deployable methods to allow personalised treatment of OSA using therapies targeted to each individual’s main causal deficits.

This work hopes to provide a set of clinical tools for phenotyping patients with OSA and identifying patient-specific treatments to revolutionize how OSA is currently managed: this advance beyond the current treatments for OSA would offer patients a greater range of treatment options, and thereby improve treatment adherence as well as quality of life and health outcomes.

Representative example taken from an overnight sleep study recording in a male patient with severe obstructive sleep.
Note the disorder is characterised with repetitive collapse of the airway throughout the night

2. Understanding why obesity causes sleep problems:
Obesity has become a public health crisis impacting one in three Australians. OSA is one of the most common medical complications of obesity and is independently associated with significant cardiovascular morbidity/mortality. However, the exact mechanisms by which obesity increases the risk of OSA are poorly understood. Using a variety of novel physiological approaches, we are investigating how obesity causes OSA. Understanding the important factor(s) involved linking obesity with OSA is crucial for developing more effective interventions and treatment strategies.

Experimental set-up for the overnight physiological monitoring of sleep in patients with sleep disorders.

Collaborations

We collaborate with many scientists and research organisations around the world. Some of our more significant national and international collaborators are listed below. Click on the map to see the details for each of these collaborators (dive into specific publications and outputs by clicking on the dots).

Key International Collaborations:

  • Andrew Wellman and Scott Sands, Harvard Medical School, Boston USA
  • Atul Malhotra and Bob Owens, University of California, San Diego, USA
  • James Kemp, Washington University,  St. Louis, MO, USA
  • John Carroll,  University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA

Key National Collaborations:

  • Philip Terrill, University of Queensland
  • Rosemary Horne and Gillian Nixon, Hudson Institute of Medical Research

Student research projects

The Edwards Lab offers a variety of Honours, Masters and PhD projects for students interested in joining our group. There are also a number of short term research opportunities available.

Please visit Supervisor Connect to explore the projects currently available in our Lab.