Bridging the Gap Between Human Postmortem Tissue Analysis and Animal Models in SIDS Research

In 2016 Red Nose made a pledge to the Australian public to find a solution to eliminate preventable SIDS deaths in babies and children for a future where no baby or child dies suddenly or unexpectedly. In line with this pledge, is our ongoing SIDS research at The University of Adelaide, led by Professor Roger Byard a member of the National Scientific Advisory Group for Red Nose and Dr. Fiona Bright the 2017 Kaarene Fitzgerald Postdoctoral Fellow. 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. Indeed 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.

The pathogenesis of SIDS is complex and requires investigation and expertise across multiple disciplines and use of a variety of scientific techniques that utilize both human postmortem tissue samples and animal models. We have previously collaborated with leading SIDS research colleagues at Harvard University in Boston, USA, focusing on human postmortem SIDS tissue with successful outcomes. We now aim to continue to facilitate a multidisciplinary approach to SIDS by bridging the gap between current SIDS research and animal models for a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach to further understanding the pathogenesis of SIDS. The next step in our ongoing investigation is to develop juvenile animal studies to further characterize our findings within the identified key areas of the brainstem in human postmortem tissue during development. The use of animal studies offers multiple ways to unravel the mechanisms that control breathing and brain development and determine the potential physiological processes that precede the postmortem pathology observed in human tissue research and will allow us to address multiple research questions.

It is hoped that we can successfully extrapolate findings from animal models 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.