This is exciting! I just received the news by email through FirstCandle.org , nonprofit organization we support that has been supporting the research efforts for decades.
[Baltimore, MD – February 2, 2010) First Candle today announced that researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston have further linked low serotonin levels in the brainstems of babies to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. The research team’s most recent study, being published in the February 3rd issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, compared brainstems of babies who died of SIDS with brainstems of babies who died of other, known causes. The results of the study are compelling and send a strong message to new and expectant parents, particularly since SIDS remains the leading cause of death for babies one month to one year of age in the United States.
First Candle salutes Dr. Hannah Kinney and her research team for their untiring efforts to unlock what was once thought to be the mystery of SIDS. “After more than 20 years of research, we may now be able to move forward in identifying babies at risk and developing preventive treatments to correct this serotonin deficiency,” said Kinney. In the study, the SIDS babies had 25 percent less serotonin in their lower brainstem and 22 percent lower levels of tryptophan hydroxylase, the enzyme that makes serotonin. Levels of binding to the serotonin receptors were 50 percent lower in the SIDS babies, signifying that a serotonin defect in the brainstem was most likely involved in the death of these babies.
As this defect probably occurs during pregnancy, good prenatal care is of utmost importance. “There is no safe amount of alcohol, smoking or second-hand smoke that is safe for pregnant women,” said Kinney. The Harvard team and other researchers are also exploring a possible genetic cause for this defect.
The study results also send a strong message to parents with newborns. “We now know that there is likely a physical reason that many of these babies die,” says Dr. Rachel Moon, Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Task force on SIDS. “And when babies with this defect are placed to sleep in unsafe places, the results can be disastrous.” For babies with low serotonin levels, re-breathing carbon dioxide (exhaled air) and overheating during sleep can be fatal. Parents need to do all they can to make sure their baby is ALWAYS placed to sleep on his or her back and in a safe place.
(it continues on at the link with safe infant sleep tips, etc)