Thursday, June 01, 2017

Baby teeth show how exposure to various metals may be linked to autism, study finds

Jun 1, 2017


The new study published in Nature Communications sheds light on some possible factors in autism risk, revealed in children's teeth: exposure to various metals, both toxic and nutritional, like lead and zinc and the changes in exposure at different stages in a child’s development.


"We think autism begins very early, most likely in the womb, and research suggests that our environment can increase a child's risk. But by the time children are diagnosed at age 3 or 4, it's hard to go back and know what the moms were exposed to," Cindy Lawler, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Genes, Environment, and Health Branch, said in a statement released today. "With baby teeth, we can actually do that."

In the study, researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai examined whether exposure to certain metals, identified in the matrix of baby teeth, showed an association with autism risk.

Researchers recruited twins from a national database of twins in Sweden to get a better understanding of how patterns of metal uptake compared among children both diagnosed and not diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.


The researchers were able to show differences in six metals including lead, zinc, tin, chromium and manganese out of the ten metals studied and autism rates. Both lead and manganese, which were statistically significant in how they related to autism risk.

Lead levels were consistently higher from 10 weeks before birth to 20 weeks after birth in children with autism spectrum disorder than their non-autism spectrum disorder counterparts.

The greatest difference was observed at 15 weeks after the twins were born: lead levels were 1.5 times higher in children with autism spectrum disorder than in their co-twins.

Manganese levels were consistently lower in children with autism spectrum disorder during two critical windows: 10 weeks prenatal to birth and then 5 to 20 weeks after birth. The greatest difference was noted at 15 weeks, when manganese levels were 2.5 times lower in autism spectrum disorder cases.


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