A new study from Boston Children’s Hospital has shown a correlation between a serotonin receptor abnormality which, when combined with other factors, could increase the risk of cot death for newborns
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (Sids), also known as Crib Death Syndrome, is one of the most dramatic and, to date, inexplicable events that lead to the death of newborns (the peak between 2 and 4 months of age) apparently healthy and which in Italy, the Ministry of Health, estimates could concern 250 new cases a year.
From the United States comes new research showing that the cause of SIDS could be of biological nature. Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital, directed by Robin L. Haynes, analyzed the brain stems of 70 infants who died between 2004 and 2011 who had brain abnormalities and found that the serotonin 2A/C receptor (serotonin a neurotransmitter) altered in cases of deaths from Sids.
Previous research on rodents had shown that the receptor in question has a role in awakening and in the ability to self-resuscitate having a role in protecting cerebral oxygenation during sleep. The new research therefore supports the idea that a biological abnormality may make some infants more vulnerable to SIDS, and that the syndrome may be promoted by three conditions occurring at the same time: the child is in a critical phase of cardiorespiratory development (in the first year of life), the child experiences a situation of stress caused by the position assumed during sleep (when lying on his stomach or sharing a bed with someone), the child has a biological anomaly which exposes him to the risk of breathing during sleep.
Although we have identified serotonin 2A/C receptor abnormalities associated with SIDS, the relationship between these abnormalities and the cause of death remains unknown. The consequences of the anomalies in this receptor in the context of a wider network of receptors that protect the vital functions in cardiac and respiratory control when the subject has to face severe stress conditions still need to be investigated. To date, there is no way to preemptively identify newborns with biological abnormalities in the serotonergic system. Therefore, adherence to “safe sleep” practices remains the only valid SIDS prevention weapon, explains Haynes.
May 26, 2023 (change May 26, 2023 | 07:06)
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