The Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or 'cot death' that kills about 300 babies a year in Britain may be linked to a defect in the brain, scientists have said.
Researchers led by Hannah Kinney at the Boston Children's Hospital in the US compared the brains of cot death victims with those of others who had died from recognised medical conditions.
They discovered a defect in the brain stem of the cot victims, reported the online edition of Daily Mail. Brain stem regulates breathing, blood pressure and body heat.
Researchers suspect that the defect might affect the ability of babies to wake up when threatened by external problems such as excessive heat or carbon dioxide when they are face down in bed.
"A normal baby will wake up, turn over and start breathing faster when carbon dioxide levels rise," said Kinney, the lead author of a paper based on the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
"These findings provide evidence that SIDS is not a mystery but a disorder that we can investigate with scientific methods, and some day may be able to identify and treat."