Researcher identifies enzyme: biomarker found for sudden infant death syndrome

The researcher identifies the enzyme
Biomarker of sudden infant death found

Through education, the number of sudden infant death cases has been declining for years. But children still die unexpectedly and for no apparent reason. Australian scientists are now identifying an enzyme that makes babies vulnerable while they sleep.

In Germany, 84 children died from sudden infant death in 2020. This is 0.01 percent of the children born in the same year. 30 years ago there were still over 1000 children a year. The fact that the numbers have dropped so dramatically is due to the Enlightenment. Consequently, you should not smoke next to the baby, he should sleep in his own bed in the parents’ room, always on his back, without a pillow and better in a sleeping bag than under a blanket. However, there are still cases of sudden infant death, internationally known as “SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)”.

Researchers at Westmead Children’s Hospital in Sydney, Australia now believe they have found a biomarker for sudden infant death syndrome. The study will be published in the June issue of the journal eBioMedicine. It has long been suspected that SIDS may be caused by a defect in the part of the brain that controls the link between sleep and breathing. The theory was that it would not scare or wake the baby if she stopped breathing while she slept.

To track down this defect, the study looked at the blood of over 60 deceased children. The starting material consisted of blood samples taken two to three days after birth as part of preventive medical checks. The children were between a week and two years old when they died.

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Each SIDS sample was then compared with blood from healthy children. The research team around Dr. Carmel Therese Harrington found that in dead children, the activity of the butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) enzyme was significantly lower than in live children and other childhood deaths without SIDS. BChE plays an important role in the brain’s arousal pathway, which explains why SIDS typically occurs during sleep.

Harrington herself had lost her son to SIDS. She told ABC broadcaster about her of her death 29 years ago: “They just said it was a tragedy. But it was a tragedy that didn’t quite fit my scientific brain.” She has since worked to find the cause of SIDS. The current study was funded through a crowdfunding campaign.

In the study, the scientists involved wrote that their discovery also opens up the possibility of identifying children at risk for SIDS in time. For example, a screening test would be possible. It could also provide an approach to eliminate this risk. The discovery is also important for parents who have already lost children to SIDS, says Harrington. “These families can now live with the knowledge that it wasn’t their fault.”

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