Why do infants die from sudden infant death syndrome?
DSudden infant death syndrome is a rare but horrifying event in which the infant dies unexpectedly in his sleep, usually between the ages of two and four months. A possible cause has now been found. Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital present at least very valid results in the “Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology”.
The team led by Robin L. Haynes used molecular biology to examine the brains of 70 infants who had died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and compared them with those of other infants who had died of other causes. They found changes in the serotonin receptor 2A/C in the SIDS brains.
They may have found exactly what neurobiologists have been looking for for decades: molecular biological changes in brain regions that are important for survival, such as those responsible for breathing. Remodeling processes take place in various brain regions during a critical time window in the maturation of the child’s brain. The theory now is: If something goes wrong, it could lead to the children not breathing – and die.
The serotonin receptors now appear to be the molecular-biological structure at which irregularities occur during brain maturation: it is known from experiments on rodents that the serotonin metabolism in the brainstem is crucial for the oxygen supply to the brain during sleep.
However, this knowledge is of little help in avoiding SIDS. However, parents can significantly reduce the risk by optimizing their infant’s sleeping conditions, as the SIDS statistics show: In Germany, this cause of death has become very rare in recent decades. In 1991, 1,285 infants died from it, in 2020 there were 84. Experts from the Children’s Health Foundation explain this pleasing development by saying that parents are better informed about the risk factors – such as lying on their stomach and blankets that impede breathing.