Even after huge breakthroughs in preventing SIDS like the Back To Sleep Campaign, 2,300 babies still die of SIDS every year. Now, new research may have uncovered a cause. Dr. Hannah Kinney of Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston and her fellow researchers examined brain tissue from the medulla of babies who died from SIDS and from other causes. The medulla is located at the base of the brain and regulates basic functions such as body temperature, breathing, blood pressure and heart rate.
They discovered that serotonin levels were 26 percent lower in tissue from babies who died of SIDS than those who died from other causes, as well as finding low levels of an enzyme needed to make serotonin.
Researchers theorize that the low serotonin levels might signal an inborn vulnerability to SIDS, which when combined with stress such as a too-hot room or being placed to sleep on their stomach can trigger the babies to stop breathing.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development funded the study.”The current findings provide important clues to the biological basis of SIDS and may ultimately lead to ways to identify infants most at risk as well as additional strategies for reducing the risk of SIDS for all infants,” Dr. Alan Guttmacher, head of the institute, said in a statement.
In countries where parents are counseled about such measures as making sure babies are not too warm, keeping blankets and pillows away from them, and putting them to sleep on their backs, SIDS rates have plummeted. It’s hoped this research might save even more babies.