Australian researchers have made a remarkable discovery on sudden infant death that may deliver the cure the whole world is waiting for.
The South Australian researchers have confirmed a link between a brain chemical called Substance P and babies who die of SIDS.
Never heard of Substance P? Neither have we. But that’s about to change.
SIDS and Substance P
Substance P is a brain chemical that transmits pain information into the central nervous system. It helps with the head and neck movement and plays a role in how the brain controls the respiratory and cardiovascular system. It also controls how the body responds to deprivation of oxygen.
It’s a pretty important chemical. And researchers from the University of Adelaide have now confirmed a link between low levels of Substance P and SIDS.
One step closer to a cure for SIDS
The researchers, together with Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, investigated 55 cases of SIDS and uncovered the connection between Substance P and SIDS.
“For a long time we’ve known that sleeping in the face down position is a risk factor for SIDS,” says Dr Fiona Bright from the University of Adelaide. “A normal infant (with regular levels of Substance P) would be able to remove themselves from that environment if they experience low oxygen.”
Babies with low levels of the chemical, however, may not.
“SIDs babies are unable to move themselves or turn their head or neck. We believe they’re unable to remove themselves from that dangerous environment and alert their parents they’re experiencing low oxygen.”
The study also notes that premature babies are more at risk of developing low levels of Substance P. Boys are also at higher risk than girls.
“A test could save babies in the future”
While this link is MASSIVE, there is currently no testing is place to determine the levels of Substance P in infants. However, this latest research could change that.
“Hopefully we can work towards a biomarker, a blood test or genetic screening at birth or prior to birth to identify babies that could be at significant risk of these abnormalities in the brain,” Dr Bright says.
“We can’t prevent this (yet) … but a test could save babies in the future.”
For more information on SIDS, see our previous article on Researchers Closer to Understanding SIDS.