Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Another clue about SIDS

Kids who die of SIDS have low levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin regulates things like breathing, heart rate, and sleep. 

I predict:
  • We will find some gene or set of genes that determines the seratonin level in the gut and in the brain and nervous system (the two places serotonin is found).
  • SIDS kids will have alleles that reduce serotonin production in the brain to a point where they die as infants.
  • This will turn out to be a case like sickle-cell anemia, where one copy of a gene prevents some bad thing from  happening but two kills you.
  • Within the lifetime of my offspring, we will begin to sequence the DNA of every child born in a hospital in the US and put it in a research database, to compare genetic and medical histories.
  • We will develop a therapy to increase serotonin levels (medication, gene therapy) and give it to kids with the SIDS genes.
  • This therapy will reduce SIDS to very low levels.
  • We will find that the therapy has unintended consequences, as serotonin becomes overproduced in the gut in some kids receiving the therapy. (I hate to think that that would look like.)
  • It will still be worth it not to have them die as infants.

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