Hannah Kinney's research is directed at defining the causes of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Dr. Kinney and colleagues are testing the idea that SIDS, or a subset of SIDS, is due to a developmental brainstem defect in autonomic and/or respiratory control during sleep. Focusing specifically on the arcuate nucleus in the ventral medulla area of the brainstem -- important in the detection of carbon dioxide and other respiratory and blood pressure responses -- her team is identifying abnormalities that put an infant at risk for sudden death during sleep. While continuing to study the anatomy and neurochemistry of the ventral medulla in SIDS victims, Dr. Kinney's team is also looking at the function and pathology of the ventral medulla in animal models. The ultimate goals of this research are to define ventral medullary abnormalities in living infants and to suggest ways of preventing the abnormalities from leading to sudden infant death.
Her studies have also detected serotonergic binding deficiencies in SIDS victims in six functionally and developmentally related components of ventral medulla--all regions critically involved in chemoreception, respiratory drive, blood pressure responses, upper airway reflexes, and/or thermoregulation. Four of the six affected regions, including the caudal raph? and arcuate nucleus, are considered derivatives of the rhombic lip and five of the six regions contain serotonergic neurons in the developing human brain.
These studies have led to an expanded hypothesis concerning the role of the developing ventral medulla in SIDS: SIDS, or a subset of SIDS, is due to a developmental abnormality in a ventral network composed of rhombic-lip derived, serotonergic neurons, and that this abnormality results in a failure of protective responses to life-threatening challenges (e.g., asphyxia, hypoxia, hypercapnia) during sleep.
About Hannah Kinney
Hannah Kinney received her MD from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. She completed an internship and residencies in anatomic and clinical pathology and in pediatrics at Duke University Medical Center and a fellowship in pediatrics at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.