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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.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Memories of childhood get lodged in the brain, emerging when you least expect.

There are certain pleasurable sights, smells, sounds and tastes that fade into the rear-view mirror as we grow from being children to adults. But on a rare occasion, we’ll come across them again and it's like a portion of our brain that’s been hidden for years expresses itself, creating a huge jolt of joy.

It’s wonderful to experience this type of nostalgia but it often leaves a bittersweet feeling because we know there are countless more sensations that may never come into our consciousness again.

Nostalgia is fleeting and that's a good thing because it’s best not to live in the past. But it does remind us that the wonderful feeling of freedom, creativity and fun from our childhood can still be experienced as we age.

A Reddit user by the name of agentMICHAELscarnTLM posed a question to the online forum that dredged up countless memories and experiences that many had long forgotten. He asked a simple question, “What’s something you can bring up right now to unlock some childhood nostalgia for the rest of us?”

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