A breakthrough Australian study has linked the cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, to a lower level of a specific brain protein.
The discovery could lead to screenings at birth that might help reduce the number of SIDS deaths.
Some 3,500 babies die every year in the U.S. from SIDS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Scientists at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children found that the brain protein orexin was 20 percent lower in babies who died from SIDS. Orexin is a neuropeptide that regulates sleep. It also controls wakefulness and appetite.
The sudden death of a baby under a year old is generally referred to as a SIDS death because doctors can’t explain it or determine the cause.
The study offers up the first biological explanation for the cause of the fatal infant syndrome, also known as “cot death.”
The research could lead to the development of tests that could measure the levels of orexin in babies to help determine an infant’s risks for SIDS, scientists said.
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