Abnormalities in common brain chemical may help explain SIDS

Researchers closer to expaining leading cause of death in infants

SALT LAKE, UT (ABC4UTAH) -- Researchers believe they have found a link that helps explain the cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS.
The researchers from Australia built on work conducted in the United States and on the belief that abnormalities in a common brain chemical may be to blame.

Researchers looked at serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep.
An abnormality in serotonin can help explain why these infant tragedies happen.
Dylan was just 3 and a half months old when he died.

Angela Valerio, mother, "he went down for a nap and never woke up."

Angela Valerio from West Jordan lost her son 6 years ago to SIDS.

Valerio, "It definitely crosses my mind everyday still. A big chunk of our lives is missing."

Researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia recently confirmed that abnormalities in serotonin that triggers brainstem dysfunction, can help explain Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
The latest research was published in the UK Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology.

SIDS is the leading cause of death in infants between one month and a year old.

Dr. Brian McGinley, Associate Professor of Pediatric University of Utah, "serotonin which is a neurotransmitter which has a big influence in the brain stem. There might be abnormalities in those neurons in the brain stem."

Serotonin, among many things, controls your breathing pattern, blood pressure and heart rate.

Dr. McGinley, "it might help explain some of the inherent vulnerabilities that we think that place kids, infants at risk for dying of SIDS."

Doctors say there are devices that could give some peace of mind, such as the Owlet ankle monitor, but say they haven't been proven to prevent SIDS.

There is no cure and no test for SIDS, yet. But doctors say these types of studies can only help.

Dr. McGinley, "the hope with this kind of work it might lead to testing. It's a huge step forward."

Valerio, "I think it would be amazing. Every time I hear of somebody else going through what me and other families have, it's heartbreaking. I hope they find something someday that can find some kind of solution to make this permanently go away."

Safe practices for infants are worth repeating: don't smoke. Place baby on their backs to sleep, dress them coolly at night, have a firm mattress, no bed sharing but keeping them in the same room for the first year is supported by doctors.  

Every year, roughly 2,000 babies die from SIDS in the U.S.

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