(Gray News) – A major medical research discovery could have just solved the mystery of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Researchers at Westmead Children’s Hospital in Australia have identified the first biochemical marker that could help detect babies at higher risk for SIDS while they are alive.
The biomarker, an enzyme called Butyrylcholinesterase (BChE), was analyzed in a study published Saturday by the Lancet eBioMedicine.
The study measured BChE activity in the blood of infants taken at birth. He then measured BChE in both SIDS victims and infants dying from other causes and compared these levels with those of surviving babies of the same birth and gender.
The study found that BChE levels at birth were significantly lower in babies who later died of SIDS compared to BChE levels in infants who died of other causes and live babies.
BChE plays an important role in the brain stimulation pathway. Thus, researchers believe that low BChE levels are likely to indicate a lack of stimulation, which reduces the baby’s ability to wake up or respond to its environment, causing SIDS vulnerability.
Dr. Carmel Harrington led the study. She lost her own child to SIDS 29 years ago, according to a press release.
Harrington said the findings change the game.
“Babies have a very powerful mechanism to inform us when they are not happy. Usually, if a baby is confronted with a life-threatening condition, such as difficulty breathing during sleep because he is in his womb, he will wake up and cry. “What this research shows is that some babies do not have the same strong arousal response,” Harrington told a news release. “This has long been believed to be the case, but until now we did not know what was causing the lack of stimulation. “Now that we know BChE is involved, we can start to change the outcome for these babies and make SIDS a thing of the past.”
Harrington also said she hoped the findings would bring some peace to grieving families.
“A seemingly healthy baby sleeping and not waking up is every parent’s nightmare, and until now there was absolutely no way to know which baby would succumb. “But that is no longer the case,” said Harrington. “This discovery opened the door for intervention and finally gives answers to parents who lost their children so tragically. “These families can now live knowing that it was not their fault.”
The researchers said that the next step is to require the measurement of the BChE biomarker in newborns at birth and then the development of special interventions to treat the enzyme deficiency in infants who have it.
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