Red Nose Fellowship to Support SIDS Research

Red Nose is honouring its pledge to continue funding research into the causes of sudden, unexplained and preventable deaths in babies by supporting a University of Adelaide research project investigating sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Fiona Bright
Dr. Fiona Bright

The inaugural Kaarene Fitzgerald Post-Doctoral Fellowship has been awarded to Dr. Fiona Bright for the research project Bridging the gap between human post-mortem tissue analysis and animal models in SIDS research.

“Our research focuses on the neuropathology of SIDS, specifically key neurochemicals and mechanisms that control the complex respiratory, cardiovascular and autonomic systems within the human infant brainstem and how brainstem dysfunction underlies the pathogenesis of SIDS,” Dr. Bright explained.

Tragically, the majority of SIDS infants die in the first six months of life during a sleep period. During the first few months after birth the infant brain undergoes extensive changes to reach maturity and this is acknowledged as a critical development period. Researchers believe that SIDS infants may have an underlying vulnerability in the form of abnormal brainstem control, which is unmasked by sleep, a state in which the brain functions differently compared to the awake state and that the fatal event occurs during a period in which the brain is still developing and is not mature enough to overcome brainstem dysfunction.

“Research associated with abnormalities in the structure and function of the brainstem in SIDS infants is the most prominent to date, with promising future research directions,” Dr. Bright said.

“It is hoped that we can successfully extrapolate findings in order to contribute to the ultimate goal of developing screening biomarkers and prevention methods to identify infants that are at increased risk of SIDS in the hope eradicating of SIDS in the future.”

According to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, sudden unexpected deaths in infancy, including SIDS, still account for more than 100 deaths in Australia annually.

Read more about Red Nose’s current research projects here.