New SIDS Research Suggests Biological Link

New research into SIDs has suggested that there may be a biological link causing young babies to die in their sleep. Up until now, SIDs risk factors have been environmental, such as stomach sleeping, too much bedding or exposure to cigarette smoke. However, this latest research, undertaken by the Royal Alexandra hospital for children at Westmead, suggests that a low level of orexin in the brain may play a role.

Orexin is a protein-like substance found in human brains, and is responsible for regulating arousal, wakefulness, and appetite – it helps people wake up if they stop breathing due to sleep apnoea. The study, which was made up of 27 SIDs cases and 19 controls, found that orexin in the SIDs babies was up to 20 percent lower thank those in the control group. Not all babies in the study that had died of SIDs had a decreased level of orixen, but the average reduction across all babies in the study that died from SIDs was significantly lower than the control group.

This ground-breaking finding could lead to screening for levels of orixen in the next ten to fifteen years. However, before this can happen, further research needs to be done.

It has been suggested that the lower levels of orixen may interfere with the messages in the brain that cause arousal. The team at the Royal Alexandra hospital are now conducting research into the cause behind the lower levels of orexin. Orixen has also been implicated in sleep disorders in adults.

However, while research is a break though, researchers are saying that it may be one of several combinations that could cause SIDs; it may be the low levels of orixen combined with environmental factors, but it is too early to say for certain. It is recommended parents continue to follow SIDs sleep guidelines to help reduce the risk of SIDs.

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