Dr. Hannah C. Kinney, MD

Dr. Hannah C. Kinney, MD

About Hannah Kinney | Dr. Kinney's Research | Interviews and Podcasts | Review Articles | Key Publications | Research Projects | Helping SIDS Research

Hospital Title: Associate in Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital

Academic Title: Associate Professor of Pathology, Harvard Medical School

Department: Pathology

Research Overview: Hannah Kinney's research is directed at defining the causes of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), focusing specifically on the arcuate nucleus in the ventral medulla area of the brainstem. Her research is Clinical/Translational Neuroscience.

Laboratory: Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC) - View Profile

Website: Hannah Kinney, MD

Email: Hannah.Kinney@childrens.harvard.edu

About Hannah Kinney

Hannah Kinney received her MD from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. She completed an internship and residencies in anatomic and clinical pathology and in pediatrics at Duke University Medical Center and a fellowship in pediatrics at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Dr. Kinney's Research

"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."
- Dr. Hannah Kinney, MD, Neuropathologist and Lead SIDS Researcher, Boston Children's Hospital

Dr. Hannah C. Kinney's research at Boston Children's Hospital is directed at defining the causes of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Dr. Kinney and colleagues are testing the idea that SIDS, or a subset of SIDS, is due to a developmental brainstem defect in autonomic and/or respiratory control during sleep. Focusing specifically on the arcuate nucleus in the ventral medulla area of the brainstem - important in the detection of carbon dioxide and other respiratory and blood pressure responses - her team is identifying abnormalities that put an infant at risk for sudden death during sleep.

Ventral Medulla of Brainstem

While continuing to study the anatomy and neurochemistry of the ventral medulla in SIDS victims, Dr. Kinney's team is also looking at the function and pathology of the ventral medulla in animal models. The ultimate goals of this research are to define ventral medullary abnormalities in living infants and to suggest ways of preventing the abnormalities from leading to sudden infant death.

Serotonin Link

Her studies have also detected serotonergic binding deficiencies in SIDS victims in six functionally and developmentally related components of ventral medulla - all regions critically involved in chemoreception, respiratory drive, blood pressure responses, upper airway reflexes, and/or thermoregulation. Four of the six affected regions, including the caudal raph and arcuate nucleus, are considered derivatives of the rhombic lip and five of the six regions contain serotonergic neurons in the developing human brain.

These studies have led to an expanded hypothesis concerning the role of the developing ventral medulla in SIDS: SIDS, or a subset of SIDS, is due to a developmental abnormality in a ventral network composed of rhombic-lip derived, serotonergic neurons, and that this abnormality results in a failure of protective responses to life-threatening challenges (e.g., asphyxia, hypoxia, hypercapnia) during sleep.

Diagnostic Test

Based on findings, Dr. Kinney and colleagues hope to develop a diagnostic test to identify infants at risk for SIDS.  They also envision a drug or other treatment to protect infants who have abnormalities in their brainstem serotonin system. Empty Arms Foundation is dedicated to the advancement of this research because, if able to progress, will hopefully help babies and families worldwide.

Interviews, Podcasts, and Videos with Dr. Kinney

Dr. Kinney has been featured in the following news story discussing her research on SIDS:

Listen to the streaming audio clips/podcasts of talk radio stations Dr. Kinney has been a guest on or visit the radio station directly to read a transcript.

Boston 90.9WBUR - February 3, 2010

NPR (National Public Radio) - November 1, 2006

Review Articles

Key Publications

  • Bradley B. Randall, David S. Paterson, Elisabeth A. Haas, Kevin G. Broadbelt, Jhodie R. Duncan, Othon J. Mena, Henry F. Krous, Felicia L. Trachtenberg and Hannah C. Kinney. Potential Asphyxia and Brainstem Abnormalities in Sudden and Unexpected Death in Infants. Pediatrics 2013. (PDF File: 805 KB Download)
  • Kinney HC, Randall LL, Sleeper LA, Willinger M, Belliveau RA, Zec N, Rava LA, Dominici L, Iyasu S, Randall B, Habbe D, Wilson H, Mandell F, McClain M, Welty TK. Serotonergic brainstem abnormalities in Northern Plains Indians with the sudden infant death syndrome. Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology 2003; 62: 1178-1191.
  • Kinney HC, Filiano JJ. Brain research in the sudden infant death syndrome. In: Kraus HF, Byard RW, editors. Sudden infant death syndrome: a diagnostic approach. London: Chapman and Hal; 2001.
  • Grafe M, Kinney HC. Neuropathology associated with stillbirth. Seminars in Perinatology 2002; 26: 83-88.

Research Projects

Helping SIDS Research

The exciting research being conducted by Dr. Kinney and colleagues is funded by private donation from SIDS families, SIDS organizations, and the National Institute of Child Health. Philanthropic funding is critical to help this research progress and why Empty Arms Foundation is determined to raise funds in order for this research to continue to advance.

To make a donation and assist with Dr. Kinney's research, please see our Donate page.

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