How researchers are working to understand origins of sudden infant death syndrome

(InvestigateTV) — No symptoms and no warning signs.

Sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, is an unpredictable tragedy too many parents face. SIDS is a silent killer that takes the lives of hundreds of babies each year, and there’s no cure.

The Centers for Disease Control reports, “Nationwide, SIDS is the leading cause of death among babies between one month and one year old and accounted for nearly 1,400 deaths in 2020.”

The cause of this tragic and mysterious phenomenon has long been unknown, and doctors have yet to define a cure.

Researchers have discovered a new potential biological component that could help us get closer, while families impacted by the devastating diagnosis continue to advocate for education.

InvestigateTV+ spoke with a mother working to make sure others don’t feel the same pain. Also, we reveal how researchers are closer than ever to understanding SIDS. Watch the full story in the video at the top of the page.

Case Borton was born on March 23rd, 2021 in South Bend, Indiana. His mom, Kayla, says he had a special connection with his twin brother Chase. It was a bond they would share for just seven short weeks before Case passed away.

His cause of death was ruled as SIDS.

Experts say SIDS is unpredictable, unexplainable, and usually happens to otherwise healthy children while they sleep.

Researchers like Dr. Robin Haynes at Boston Children’s Hospital are working to better understand its origin. Her team has identified what she calls a possible biological vulnerability in some infants who have died from SIDS.

This vulnerability in a serotonin-related brain receptor is involved in the body’s normal waking and breathing process. Infants in dangerous sleep environments are particularly at risk.

Dr. Haynes says their findings support the idea that some children dying from SIDS may not have a protective gasping reaction, which could lead to asphyxiation.

Since specific SIDS biomarkers have not yet been determined, there are still no tests or treatments for that brain receptor abnormality.

Dr. Haynes says it’s critical that parents follow the ABCs of safe sleep.

  • babies should be alone
  • on their backs
  • and in a crib

Safe sleep recommendations have been evolving over the last three decades. In that time, SIDS rates have declined according to the CDC. But, as Dr. Haynes points out, they’ve leveled off. Thus highlighting the importance of continued research.

As researchers work to better understand the physical and environmental factors that contribute to SIDS, experts have found that genetics and infections may also play a role.

Safe sleep is not the only way to protect against it.

Breastfeeding has been shown to lower the risk of SIDS, while tobacco and alcohol use during pregnancy can raise it.

Following Case’s death, Kayla created the Just in Case Foundation. The nonprofit has given out hundreds of free Owlet socks and offers SIDS education courses and CPR certification.

For more information, visit

Tisha Powell

Tisha Powell

Tisha Powell is an anchor for WAFB 9News in Baton Rouge.

Wade Smith

Wade Smith

Wade leads the production workflow and strategy development of digital content for Gray Television’s National Investigative Team. He started his digital career in Atlanta, GA in 2009 after graduating from the University of Alabama.