Infants with the ear problem don’t seem to move as much and so are less likely to roll away from an area where carbon dioxide is accumulating, say researchers from the Seattle Children’s Hospital.
The discovery has been made only with laboratory mice at the moment, but it could well provide a clue as to how it happens in people. In the experiment, the researchers altered the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the mice’s sleeping area, and watched how mice with inner ear damage reacted in their sleep, and compared that to the instinctive movement of other mice that didn’t have the problem.
The healthy mice rolled away from the area where the carbon dioxide was building, but the ones with inner ear problems didn’t.
The researchers are starting to collaborate with others in Denmark to see if the pattern is similar in babies. “The more we understand these biological mechanisms, the better we can study them and develop ways to identify babies at risk and intervene before a tragic death,” said lead researcher Daniel Rubens
SIDS is defined as the sudden and inexplicable death of an infant, typically aged up to 12 months. Around 2,000 babies in the US die each year from SIDS.