According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), SIDS is defined as the “sudden death of an infant less than 1 year of age that cannot be explained after a thorough investigation is conducted, including a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene, and a review of the clinical history.”
SIDS is currently the leading cause of infant deaths in the United States and the leading cause of death in infants one to 12 months old.
For years, the cause of SIDS has remained a mystery, and has stumped doctors all over the world. However, Rubens is performing a study that he feels could finally reveal the real reason why over 2,000 babies die unexpectedly each year. Rubens thinks that the answer to the mystery has been hiding within the inner ear.
“We are studying infants that look and seem healthy and who sleep in safe conditions,” Rubens told Yahoo Parenting. “But for some reason, these babies die in their sleep and an autopsy and investigation has determined no obvious cause of death.”
“Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) claims the lives of 2,500 infants in the United States every year. Striking without warning and leaving scant clues about its cause, SIDS has defied all attempts to unlock its secret, casting a shadow of fear over every family with a newborn.
I am researching the finding of a hearing deficit from inner ear damage, noted at birth in SIDS infants with newborn hearing tests, and its potential relationship to the later mechanism of death.”
Rubens’ theory is that babies who died from SIDS had a dysfunctional portion of the inner ear that controls balance. He further explains that because of this, the babies experience a build-up of carbon dioxide and a lack of oxygen. Because they lack the ability to wake themselves, they die from the deadly amount of gases.
“These babies have inner ear damage, but they can’t tell you. They are too young to sit up. The baby has got a problem getting air.”
Rubens is continuing the research which was started by the Rhode Island Department of Health.
“The state of Rhode Island did a study in 2007 at my request,” Rubens told KIRO Radio’s Ron and Don Show. The babies who died of SIDS — they went back and pulled their newborn hearing screening tests. They found the babies in SIDS cases had a suppressed right sided hearing difference compared to babies that didn’t die of SIDS and other babies that died of other causes.”
For the study, Rubens and his team damaged the inner ears of mice. They then exposed them to a gas mixture with high levels of carbon dioxide. They found that the mice with the inner ear damage didn’t wake up.
Rubens is wanting to develop a hearing screening for newborns to detect if they have any ear damage. However, he needs more funding to do so. Rubens and his team are currently trying to raise $100,000 to continue their research. Rubens explained that they have the infrastructure, hearing experts, and pediatricians in England, but they need the funding to take this research to the next phase.
“We don’t have a way to detect whether a baby is prone to SIDS, but our hope that we can help prevent SIDS from birth. The prospect is exciting.”
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