Researchers closer to understanding SIDS

New mums of the future may sleep easier with a breakthrough in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) research this week!

The Sydney Morning Herald has revealed Australian researchers are closer to unveiling the mystery of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The syndrome, which causes the death of otherwise healthy babies, sees their cause of death routinely ruled as of “undetermined”.

An Australian study of 30 babies who died from SIDS, commonly referred to as cot death, has revealed they have decreased levels of a protein that helps adults and babies wake up if they stop breathing as a result of sleep apnea.

SMH: Researchers from The Westmead Children’s Hospital, Dr Rita Machaalani and doctoral student Nicholas Hunt, found a 20 per cent decrease in a protein called orexin in the babies who had died of SIDS compared with a control group of 12 babies.

Not all babies who died of SIDS had the decreased level of orexin, the original study by Mr Hunt found. But when the levels of orexin were averaged among the SIDS babies, they were lower than in the control group, Dr Machaalani explained.

“This response to tell them to wake up is not as strong as it would be [in other babies without SIDS],” said Dr Machaalani, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Sydney and manager of the sleep unit at The Children’s Hospital.

Orexin is a neuropeptide that regulates wakefulness and arousal, and research has found adults with narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that causes chronic sleepiness and involuntarily sleep, often have less of this neuropeptide than other people.

This is the second protein that researchers have discovered to be associated with SIDS. SIDS is believed to have killed as many as 500 Australian babies a year until researchers found that putting children to sleep on their backs dramatically decreased the SIDS risk.

The protein discoveries have raised hopes that babies could be screened for this risk in the future. But Dr Machaalani said the findings which was published in Acta Neuropathologica was just the beginning of further lengthy research and formalized baby screening was at least a decade away.

In Australia in 2013, 117 babies died suddenly and unexpectedly; of those deaths, 54 were identified as SIDS.

For information on SIDS and safe sleeping habits for babies please see the SAFE Sleeping SIDAS & Kids website.



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Mother-of-two. Tea lover. Lego Ninja. Expert in carpet Play Dough extraction. Victoria Louis is a 30-something writer based in Sydney, NSW. A former marketing manager who loves to laugh there’s no topic she won’t explore. Victoria is full of opinion, big on kindness and believes the day is always better with a dash of lipstick.

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