Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) | Research & Clinical Trials

Research & Innovation

At Children’s Hospital Boston, our care is informed by our research, and our discoveries in the lab strengthen the care we provide at each child's bedside. In fact, Children’s scientific research program is one of the largest and most active of any pediatric hospital in the world.

Currently, there is no way to identify living infants at risk of SIDS. But the development of such a test is a major goal of SIDS research at Children’s.

Among Children’s research projects that hold promise for preventing SIDS is research into a neurochemical abnormality in the brainstem that may be responsible for the failure of protective breathing, heart and arousal responses that are thought to be responsible for SIDS.

Recent autopsy data provide the strongest evidence yet that sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) has a concrete biological basis. Children’s neuropathologist Hannah Kinney, MD, and colleagues have found that babies who die from SIDS have abnormalities in the brainstem, the part of the brain that controls breathing; that responds to re-breathing too much carbon dioxide; and that regulates blood pressure and body temperature — all of which are important in sleeping and waking.

Our researchers found that the brainstems of SIDS infants have lower levels of the neurochemical serotonin and a signaling protein called 14-3-3. They also had significantly fewer receptors for serotonin and another neurochemical gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA). These abnormalities are thought to prevent SIDS infants from properly controlling the vital functions that keep them alive and ultimately to lead to their death.

Dr. Kinney and colleagues are currently working towards a means of identifying those infants who are at increased risk of SIDS, with the ultimate goal of developing a treatment that will protect them from SIDS.