+
Science

Researchers nail down scientific 'biomarker' for SIDS and it could be a lifesaver

This discovery is groundbreaking for parents, doctors and scientists worldwide.

Researchers nail down scientific 'biomarker' for SIDS and it could be a lifesaver
Photo by Picsea on Unsplash

Scientist identify a marker for babies at risk of SIDS.

Worrying over a sleeping baby comes with the territory of being a new parent. There are so many rules about safe sleep that it can be hard for parents to keep it all straight. Never let the baby sleep on their tummies. Don’t put soft things in the crib. That crib bumper is super cute but you can’t keep it on there when the baby comes. Don’t ever co-sleep. Never cover a baby with a blanket. The list of infant sleep rules designed to avoid Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, is endless.

SIDS is described as an unexplained death of an infant under the age of 1 year old. There is no determined cause and no warning signs, which is what makes it so terribly tragic when it happens. The worry over a sleeping baby stays with some parents far longer than it should. I recall my own mother coming to check in on me as a teenager, and I sometimes do the same to my own children, even though they’re well over the age of being at risk for SIDS. The fact that there is no cause, no explanation, no warning and nothing to reassure parents that their children will fare just fine means worrying about a sleeping child becomes second nature to most parents. It’s just what you do.


Well, maybe not anymore. Researchers from The Children’s Hospital Westmead in Sydney, Australia, have found a link to SIDS. The study released by the hospital explains not only how the babies succumb to SIDS, it also details why. For years, the medical community speculated that SIDS was caused by an unknown defect in the part of the brain that's responsible for breathing and arousal from sleep. The theory was that the normal startle response to arouse a sleeping baby when breathing stopped or was obstructed didn’t work when the supposed defect was present.

Photo by Tim Bish on Unsplash

Researchers in Australia analyzed dried blood from babies that had passed away from SIDS and compared it to infants who died of other causes and to healthy living infants. Through their research they were able to identify that the enzyme butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) was significantly lower in babies who died of SIDS in comparison to the other samples collected. BChE is a major factor in the brain’s arousal pathway, which explains why SIDS occurs during sleep.

If an enzyme that informs scientists of low BChE levels can be found in simple blood samples, this could be a game changer and a lifesaver. The hope is that doctors will eventually be able to devise a way to keep babies safe during sleeping hours, helping parents rest and reassuring those who have experienced the tragedy of losing a child to SIDS with answers.

Dr. Carmel Harrington, the lead researcher who helped make this discovery, lost her son to SIDS 29 years ago. She told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, "Nobody could tell me. They just said it's a tragedy. But it was a tragedy that didn't sit well with my scientific brain.” So she set out to solve the puzzle and provide some solace to grieving parents like her. "These families can now live with the knowledge that this was not their fault," she said.

This discovery is groundbreaking for parents, doctors and scientists worldwide. The knowledge of what causes SIDS will inform research into a plan on how to proceed when low BChE levels are detected. Hopefully, when that's achieved, everyone will sleep a little easier.

This article originally appeared on 04.15.19


On May 28, 2014, 13-year-old Athena Orchard of Leicester, England, died of bone cancer. The disease began as a tumor in her head and eventually spread to her spine and left shoulder. After her passing, Athena's parents and six siblings were completely devastated. In the days following her death, her father, Dean, had the difficult task of going through her belongings. But the spirits of the entire Orchard family got a huge boost when he uncovered a secret message written by Athena on the backside of a full-length mirror.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

A child’s mental health concerns shouldn’t be publicized no matter who their parents are

Even politicians' children deserve privacy during a mental health crisis.

A child's mental health concerns shouldn't be publicized.

Editor's Note: If you are having thoughts about taking your own life, or know of anyone who is in need of help, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 200+ crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 9-8-8. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.


It's an unspoken rule that children of politicians should be off limits when it comes to public figure status. Kids deserve the ability to simply be kids without the media picking them apart. We saw this during Obama's presidency when people from both ends of the political spectrum come out to defend Malia and Sasha Obama's privacy and again when a reporter made a remark about Barron Trump.

This is even more important when we are talking about a child's mental health, so seeing detailed reports about Ted Cruz's 14-year-old child's private mental health crisis was offputting, to say it kindly. It feels icky for me to even put the senator's name in this article because it feels like adding to this child's exposure.

When a child is struggling with mental health concerns, the instinct should be to cocoon them in safety, not to highlight the details or speculate on the cause. Ever since the news broke about this child's mental health, social media has been abuzz, mostly attacking the parents and speculating if the child is a member of the LGBTQ community.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

His aunt died on Thanksgiving and his 'rap' about how the family handled it is hilarious

The 95-year-old's 'bold, creative decision' to die on Thanksgiving when the whole family was at her house led to this chaotic masterpiece.

A viral video tells a wild, oddly hilarious tale of a guy's aunt dying on Thanksgiving.

A loved one dying on a holiday isn't normally something to laugh about, but there are exceptions to every rule. This video is one of them.

TikTok user Darien (@dairy.n) shared a story about his family's Thanksgiving Day that is so gloriously bizarre and delightfully real, it's hard not to laugh, despite the fact that it's about his aunt dying. The fact that he tells the tale in the style of a "One thing about me" rap is extra hilarious, and judging by the comments of some of the 6.7 million people who've watched it, it's struck people's funny bones.

Dark humor? A little bit. But his aunt was 95 and she died of natural causes, which helps the hilarity feel not quite so inappropriate. She also apparently had a fabulous sense of humor that she used to cope with her own difficulties throughout her life, so the video is more like a fitting tribute than a what-the-heck storytelling.

Keep ReadingShow less
Gen Ishihara/Facebook

"AI art isn't cute."

Odds are you’ve probably seen those Lensa AI avatars floating around social media. You know, the app that turns even the most basic of selfies into fantasy art masterpieces? I wouldn’t be surprised if you have your own series of images filling up your photo bank right now. Who wouldn’t want to see themselves looking like a badass video game character or magical fairy alien?

While getting these images might seem like a bit of innocent, inexpensive fun, many are unaware that it comes at a heavy price to real digital artists whose work has been copied to make it happen. A now-viral Facebook and Instagram post, made by a couple of digital illustrators, explains how.

Keep ReadingShow less