Welcome to the

Sleep and Upper Airway Research Group!

We are a dedicated team of researchers focused on unraveling the complexities associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and improving its diagnosis and treatment. In case you’re not aware, OSA is a very common sleep and breathing disorder affecting up to 17% of the adult population. The disorder is characterized by repeated episodes of upper airway (throat) collapse and breathing interruption during sleep. Despite its prevalence, OSA often goes undiagnosed and untreated, leading to various health consequences including excessive daytime sleepiness, neurocognitive impairment, and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Our Focus:

SUARG is concerned with determining the causes of upper collapse in OSA, developing simplified and more accurate methods to diagnose and quantify OSA, and better understand, develop and progress personalized treatments for OSA.

Our Approach: 

To keep the upper airway open for breathing involves a complex interplay of anatomical, physiological, and biomechanical factors. Thus, to unravel these complexities our group employs a multi-model, multi-disciplinary approach, combining computational modeling, physical models, physiological experiments with animal and human subjects, clinical studies, signal processing and biomedical imaging studies.

Our Research Objectives: 

By utilizing diverse methodologies, part of SUARG’s goals are to:

    • Understand the role of the hyoid bone in upper airway patency 
    • Evaluate and improve the effectiveness of OSA treatment options like surgical hyoid bone repositioning, mandibular advancement, maxillomandibular advancement surgery and hypoglossal nerve stimulation
    • Develop new non-invasive OSA treatment methods
    • Develop devices and tools for simplified physiological measurement of snoring and OSA quantification 
    • Investigate potential mechanisms associated with snoring and carotid artery disease
    • Further understand the relationship between smoking, sleep, and OSA

Our Research Impact: 

Through our research, we strive to improve the understanding of upper airway collapse in OSA and its treatment, which will lead to enhanced patient care and well-being.

Research Fields & Skills

Computational modeling

Physiological experiments

 Device development 

Data Processing & Analysis

Current Research Projects

Role of the Hyoid Bone in Upper Airway Patency and OSA Treatment Effectiveness

How does the position and movement of this unique mobile bone in the neck contribute to upper airway collapse? Also importantly, how does this bone influence the effectiveness of several OSA treatment options? SUARG aims to find out!

Hypoglossal Nerve Stimulation

A treatment option for OSA is hypoglossal nerve stimulation (HGNS), which causes certain tongue muscles to contract to prevent upper airway collapse. However, HGNS is only effective in ~65% of OSA sufferers, stressing the need to optimize this treatment. SUARG is using experimental and computational modeling approaches to better understand and improve the effectiveness of this treatment modality.

Maxillomandibular Advancement Surgery

Maxillomandibular advancement (MMA) surgery is a procedure that involves surgically repositioning the upper jaw (maxilla) and lower jaw (mandible) forward to enlarge the upper airway. However, MMA is not universally effective in treating OSA and there is no method of accurately predicting who it will benefit. SUARG to the rescue?!

Snoring and its Consequences

Is snoring merely a disruptive annoyance that hinders the sleep of those in proximity, or does it carry more profound implications? While OSA is commonly linked to cardiovascular risks, such as stroke, SUARG aims to delve into the potential consequences of snoring in isolation, independent of OSA.

Smoking, Sleep and OSA

This project investigates the effect of different smoking modalities on sleep, physiological variables and OSA severity.

Device Design for Sleep and Upper Airway Measurements

SUARG is actively involved in the development of simplified devices designed for measuring physiological signals during sleep and their subsequent analysis. Additionally, the group is working on the creation of a novel portable upper airway imaging instrument, advancing the capabilities for sleep-related research and diagnostics.

Publications

Journal Publications
  • C. J. Samaha, H. J. Tannous, D. Salman, J. G. Ghafari, J. Amatoury. “Role of surgical hyoid bone repositioning in modifying upper airway collapsibility.” , Frontiers in physiology, vol.13, pp-1089606, 2022
Conference Papers
  • Bekdache D. and Amatoury J. How does surgical hyoid bone repositioning influence tracheal displacement outcomes on the upper airway? A finite element modeling study. ATS 2024, (accepted), 2024.
  • Bekdache D., Tibni F, Amatoury J. “Investigating the effects of tracheal displacement and hyoid repositioning on upper airway patency using computational modeling.” World Sleep 2023 (in press), 2023.
  • Tannous, H., et al.  “Combined effects of mandibular advancement and surgical hyoid bone repositioning on upper airway collapsibility. ” , American Journal Of Respiratory And Critical Care Medicine(A2077), San Franciso, USA, 2022
  • Salman, D. and Amatoury, J. “Role of Hyoid Bone position in upper airway patency and tissue mechanics: A computational finite element modeling approach” , American Journal Of Respiratory And Critical Care Medicine(A2078), San Franciso, 2022

  • Salman, D. and Amatoury, J.  “A finite element model study on the influence of hyoid bone baseline position (phenotype) and hyoid surgical repositioning on upper airway outcomes” , Journal Of Biomechanics, Taipei, Taiwan, 2022
  • Samaha, C., et al. “The influence of surgical hyoid bone repositioning on upper airway collapsibility” , European Respiratory Journal(PA755), 2021

  • Ayoub, Y., et al. “Diagnostic Superficial Vein Scanner” , 2018 International Conference on Computer and Applications, ICCA 2018(321-325), 2018

  • Tong, B., et al.  “Combined CPAP and oral appliance (OA) therapy reduces CPAP requirements and pharyngeal pressure (Pepi) swings in OSA” , European Respiratory Journal (PA4346), 2018.

People

Dr Jason amatoury

Dr Jason amatoury

Group Leader and Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Originally from Australia, Jason moved to Lebanon in Fall 2017 to join AUB as an Assistant Professor in the Biomedical Engineering Program at the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (MSFEA) and establish the Sleep and Upper Airway Research Group (SUARG). He holds a BE degree in computer engineering and Master’s degree in biomedical engineering from the University of New South Wales in Australia, and attained his PhD from the University of Sydney, Australia, in upper airway modeling (2012). Following his PhD, Jason undertook postdoctoral research at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research (WIMR) and Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA). For more, see Jason’s detailed profile here: https://www.aub.edu.lb/pages/profile.aspx?memberId=ja106.

Kareem Abu

Kareem Abu

PhD Candidate

Kareem holds MS and BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Ibadan and is currently pursuing his PhD in the Biomedical Engineering Program at MSFEA. His PhD research focuses on developing a non-invasive alternative to electrical stimulation of the hypoglossal nerve for treating obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Such a method would remove the need for invasive surgery and the risks associated with electrical stimulation, such as wound infections, tongue abrasion, and pneumothorax.

Marie-Michèle Serghani

Marie-Michèle Serghani

PhD Candidate

Marie-Michèle received her Bachelor’s degree in Life and Earth Sciences from the Lebanese University in 2019 and her Master of Science in Neuroscience in 2021 from AUB. She joined SUARG in 2021 to pursue her PhD in Biomedical Engineering. She is interested in combining her neuroscience background with novel advancements in biomedical engineering for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In her research, she will be investigating the influence of hypoglossal nerve stimulation (HGNS) on upper airway function in an anesthetized animal model and developing novel approaches to improve HGNS efficacy.

Dana Bekdache

Dana Bekdache

Research Assistant

Dana received her Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and minor in Bioengineering Design in 2022 from AUB. She is interested in biomechanics and computational studies for chronic disorders. She joined SUARG in 2023 as a research assistant (RA) and is working on computational modeling and finite element analysis on a model of the upper airway. The aim is to understand the effects of multiple interventions (such as hyoid bone repositioning and tracheal displacement)  on the upper airway mechanics and airway collapsibility.

Wedad Saab

Wedad Saab

Orthodontics Resident and Master's Candidate

Wedad received her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Beirut Arab University in 2021 and is now pursuing her Masters and Residency in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics at AUBMC. She is passionate about computational modeling, upper airway obstruction, and the role that the hyoid bone plays in affecting upper airway patency. Her research focuses on studying how the initial position of the hyoid bone affects the upper airway geometry, tissue mechanics, and closing pressure after mandibular advancement and/or surgical repositioning of the hyoid bone in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea.

Sara Sayah

Sara Sayah

Master's Candidate

Sara received her Bachelor of Engineering degree in Mechanical Engineering from AUB in 2022 and is currently pursuing her Master of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering at AUB. She is mainly interested in biomechanics of the upper airway, neuromuscular stimulation, and computational modeling. Her research focuses on studying the effect of hypoglossal nerve stimulation (HGNS) on upper airway mechanics through computational modeling. This work aims to further increase the efficacy of HGNS in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

NADER ZALAQUETT

NADER ZALAQUETT

MD STUDENT

Nader graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Biology from AUB in 2020, and is currently a senior medical student in the same institution. His goal is to specialize in Head and Neck Surgery, including those associated with OSA and other abnormalities. He joined SUARG in 2022 and is underatking a clinical project investigating the relationship between smoking, sleep and OSA.

Fares Abbara

Fares Abbara

Graduate Research volunteer

Fares holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from AUB (2022) and has an interest in various fields within mechanical engineering, in particular computational modeling. He joined SUARG in 2022 as a research volunteer and has been involved in working on modeling the carotid artery using finite element analysis (FEA), computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and fluid structure interaction (FSI), with an aim of investigating how snoring-related vibrations impact the carotid wall.

Karim Abi Said

Karim Abi Said

Graduate Research Volunteer

Karim graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering with a Minor in Bioengineering Design in 2023. He has a strong interest in signal processing, instrumentation, and machine learning, including their use in biomedical engineering related applications. Karim joined SUARG in late 2021 as a research volunteer and has since enjoyed learning more about the upper airway, sleep apnea, as well as the research pipeline as a whole. He is currently finalizing the development of a simple device for snoring measurement and signal processing of sleep-related data.

Former Members

Ali Issa

Ali Issa

Research Engineer Alumnus

Ali received his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and Research Master’s in Computational Mechanics from the Lebanese University (LU) in 2019. He is interested in computational finite element modeling, particularly in the field of biomechanics. Ali worked with SUARG on developing a computational model of upper airway muscle contraction with an aim to simulate and predict the influence of muscle contraction on upper airway function under various physiological loads.​

Tala El-Kaisi

Tala El-Kaisi

Undergraduate Research Volunteer Alumnus

Tala graduated in 2023 with an undergraduate degree in computer and communication engineering (CCE) student at AUB alone with a minor in bioengineering design. She is interested in a wide range of biomedical fields, such as biomedical applications of machine learning and medical device design. She joined SUARG as an undergraduate research volunteer to learn more about obstructive sleep apnea and be involved in applying and developing her engineering skills. She worked on programming methods to automate experimental study interventions.

Farah Malaki

Farah Malaki

Master's Alumnus

Farah received her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2018 from the University of Balamand (UOB).  She then became a master’s student in biomedical engineering at the American university of Beirut (AUB). She is interested in biomechanics and is undertaking a research project in computational modeling. The aim of her work was to assess the effects of snoring-related vibrations on the carotid artery in order to better understand the potential role of snoring in the development and progression of carotid atherosclerosis.

Esau Mhandu

Esau Mhandu

Master's Alumnus

Esau attained his Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from Ashesi University, Ghana. He proceeded to do his Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering at the American University of Beirut. He is interested in the design and development of novel solutions to combat preventable diseases. His master’s research with SUARG was aimed at the development of a low-cost and non-invasive device for diagnosing pneumonia in children in an overall effort to help reduce the child mortality rate resulting from pneumonia, particularly in developing countries.  

Romain Raffoul

Romain Raffoul

Intern Alumnus

Romain finished his master’s in biomedical engineering at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium). Interested in biomechanics and medical devices, he travelled to Lebanon to undertake an internship with SUARG to gain experience and apply his knowledge to working in the interdisciplinary and growing field of obstructive sleep apnea. He worked on the design and development of electro-mechanical coupled devices that will allow specific interventions and measurements to be undertaken during physiological research studies. The internship was also an opportunity for Romain to immerse himself in the Lebanese culture and develop his Arabic language skills.

Ghina Safi

Ghina Safi

Master's Alumnus

​Ghina has a background in Physics from the Beirut Arab University (2017) and persued a master’s in biomedical engineering at AUB. She joined SUARG in 2019 and undertook a research project in finite element modeling of upper airway muscles. The aim of her work was to investigate the mechanisms underlying the effects of upper airway muscle contraction on airway collapsibility, particularly as it relates hypoglossal nerve stimulation (HGNS) therapy for obstructive sleep apnea, in order to gain insights into therapeutic efficacy prediction and improvement.​

Diane Salman

Diane Salman

Master’s Alumnus

​Diane received her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from AUB in 2018. She then became a master’s student in biomedical engineering with research interests directed towards biomechanics and computational modeling. For her master’s research project with SUARG (which she joined in 2018), Diane used finite element modeling tools to investigate how the hyoid bone influences upper airway tissue mechanics. The overall goal of this work was to better understand the hyoid bone’s role in obstructive sleep apnea pathophysiology and the efficacy of certain therapies.​

Corine Samaha

Corine Samaha

Master's Alumnus

Dr. Corine Samaha received her dental surgeon degree in 2017 from the Lebanese University (LU). She then studied and trained to become a resident specializing in Orthodontics at AUBMC. Along with her clinical work, Corine is interested in the diagnosis and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. She joined SUARG in 2018 to pursue this interest and undertook a research project to investigate the role of the hyoid bone in upper airway patency, as well as in the effectiveness of mandibular advancement (a treatment option for OSA) in altering airway outcomes, using an animal model.

Hiba Tannous

Hiba Tannous

Master’s Alumnus

Dr. Hiba Tannous received her dental surgeon degree in 2018 from Saint Joseph University (USJ). She then pursued her master’s degree at AUB and her residency in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics at the AUBMC. Hiba joined SUARG in 2019 with an interest in applying her clinical background to study how mandibular advancement can be used to treat OSA. Her research focused on better understanding the role of the hyoid bone in the effectiveness of mandibular advancement to improve upper airway collapsibility in an animal model.​

Farah Tibni

Farah Tibni

Research Assistant Alumnus

Farah initially studied Biology at LAU and then completed Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering at LIU. She is highly passionate about research across multiple disciplines in sciences and engineering, especially biomedical and biomechanical applications to advance medical therapies. She has previous experience working at AUB/AUBMC on models of congenital heart disease as a first initiative in the Middle East. She joined the Sleep and Upper Airway Research Group in 2021 and took responsibility for managing the physiological research lab and working on experimental and modeling studies.​​​​

Contact Us

At SUARG, we are continuously seeking passionate researchers and dedicated students in the fields of engineering, medicine, and science to join our dynamic team. We invite individuals who are eager to contribute their expertise to our compelling research endeavors.

Contact Dr. Jason Amatoury: