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Defining the Neuropathology of Sudden Unexpected Death in Pediatrics (SUDP) – 2015

Grantee: Boston Children’s Hospital
Project Title: Defining the Neuropathology of Sudden Unexpected Death in Pediatrics (SUDP)
Principal Investigators: Hannah C, Kinney, MD

This grant is to support Dr. Kinney’s efforts as a pediatric neuropathologist towards defining the neuropathology of sudden unexpected death in pediatrics (SUDP). The disorders of the brain that are associated with sudden death in infants in particular are complex and poorly understood. Moreover, research with modern specialized methods in neuropathology that are not part of the standard autopsy is needed towards uncovering new brain disorders that may cause sudden infant death. Dr. Kinney’s work in the study of brains in infants dying suddenly and unexpectedly covers both diagnostic and research aspects. Dr. Kinney has dedicated her professional career to determining the role of the brain in sudden and unexpected death in early life. Her focus has been upon the brain’s homeostatic network in the control of breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, sleep, and arousal, and the neurotransmitter serotonin in this network, in SIDS. Her laboratory has published abnormalities in different biochemical and structural markers in the brainstem and hippocampus (region above the brainstem in the brain’s homeostatic network) over the last 20 years.

The overall purpose of the award is to support Dr. Kinney’s work in pediatric neuropathology in sudden and unexplained infant death, including SIDS, under the auspice of Robert’s Program in Sudden Unexpected Death in Pediatrics (SUDP). This program, co-founded by Drs. Richard D. Goldstein and Kinney in 2014, is an unprecedented clinical and research program in the state-of-the art evaluation of sudden and unexpected death due to natural causes in children. The mission of the program is to translate major scientific developments from genetics, other basic sciences, and bereavement research, to understand and address these untimely deaths to the greatest extent possible, supporting families and their clinicians in the aftermath of loss.

In the first two pilot years of Robert’s Program, the multidisciplinary team of Robert’s Program, including Dr. Kinney, evaluated over 50 case studies of infants and children dying suddenly and unexpectedly from around the country. The award from the CJ Foundation will support the analysis and potential discovery of currently unrecognized clinicopathologic subgroups (phenotypes) in this group of children who are classified under the umbrella of sudden, unexpected, and unexplained death. Our goal is to define through this intense study of individual cases new research directions that are urgently needed. We believe the potential subgroups reflect underlying biologic abnormalities in infants and children that put them at risk for sudden death in safe and/or unsafe sleep environments. The award from the CJ Foundation will also support Dr. Kinney’s development of a standardized neuropathology protocol for use in SUDP cases by neuropathologists and medical examiners in daily forensic practice, based upon her extensive experience in diagnostic and research work over the last 20 years.