Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: Possible Congenital Biochemical Causation
Posted Oct 03 2008 12:51pm
According to this research, scientist have discovered a possible biochemical cause for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The researchers, examining mice, determined that a problem involving the use of serotonin as a signaling mechanism in the brainstem can lead to difficulties involving the brain’s ability to make adjustments. The brainstem is involved in many regulatory procedures, including those involved in the regulation of respiratory and cardiovascular issues. According to the study, serotonin was implicated in the difficulties of some mice to regulate those areas of functioning. From the article:
"At first sight the mice were normal. But then they suffered sporadic and unpredictable drops in heart rate and body temperature. More than half of the mice eventually died of these crises during a restricted period of early life. It was at that point that we thought it might have something to do with SIDS," says Gross.
Until now it was unclear how changes in serotonin signalling in the brainstem of SIDS infants are involved in sudden death. The findings in the mouse show that deficits in serotonin signalling in the brainstem can be sufficient to cause sudden death and strongly support the idea that a congenital serotonin defect could play a critical role in SIDS.
The researchers caution that the mechanism it may be somewhat different when applied to humans. In addition these findings, while informative, prompt more questions than provide answers, especially when applied to humans. I suppose the first step, other than the obvious one generalizing these findings to humans, would be to develop a marker of some sort, in order to determine which infants might be vulnerable to this sort of problem. Then, interventions could be examined, either by prevention or treatment. Given the lack of understanding regarding SIDS, I would also think any kind or research that provides parents with information about how they lost their infant will also be welcome, if for no other reason than it would provide closure, and relieve their guilt, if not their grief. Obviously, that would be welcome news.