26 February 2010

Brain hormone deficiency linked to SIDS

After two decades of work, and in a finding that could help explain why some babies die mysteriously in their sleep, a Boston doctor and her collaborators believe they have evidence that abnormally low levels of a chemical in the brain that helps control breathing during sleep plays a role in causing sudden infant death syndrome.

In the study, the group measured the levels of serotonin, as well as an enzyme that makes serotonin, in tissue samples taken during autopsies of 35 infants who died from SIDS, provided by research partners at the San Diego County medical examiner's office in California.

Levels of serotonin, and the enzyme that makes it, were, on average, lower in the SIDS babies compared to babies who died of other causes.

A blood test to detect low serotonin levels in newborns "would be the ultimate goal," she said.

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