MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Previous studies have shown that some metals (nutrients and toxicants) are absorbed and metabolized differently in children with autism spectrum disorder compared to neuro-typical children. However, it is not known when this dysregulation occurs and it is incredibly difficult to study prenatal metal metabolism. Teeth, which begin forming prenatally, grow by adding a new layer every day, much like the yearly growth rings in trees. Each layer formed captures many of the chemicals circulating in the body at the time.
We have developed a method to measure metals in these layers to build a timeline of metal exposure during the prenatal and early childhood period. We found that the cycles of copper and zinc metabolism were disrupted in children with ASD and used this feature to develop a method to predict the emergence of autism spectrum disorder with 90% accuracy.
MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Response: Dysregulation of copper and zinc cycles occurs prenatally in children with autism spectrum disorder, well before any clinical symptoms could be measured. Our findings suggest that these cycles are critical to healthy neurodevelopment. This feature can be used to predict the emergence of ASD with 90% accuracy. This is a first step in the development of a diagnostic test for ASD that could be applied in early life.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: Toxic metals are often incorporated into the same metabolic pathways of essential metals and nutrients. Our method of investigating cycles of metal metabolism could help explain the neurotoxic effects of some metals. We plan to study the cycles of more metals and their association with neurodevelopment.
Baby teeth, which we used in this study, are shed after clinical symptoms of ASD are evident. Our future research will look at measuring copper and zinc cycles in other biological samples that are available at birth which could lead to a diagnostic test that can be applied in early life. Detection of ASD at an early age could improve outcomes by enabling early introduction of therapies.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: We undertook this study in a twin-cohort based in Sweden and replicated the results in 3 other populations around the world, providing strong proof of our findings.
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BY PAUL CURTIN, CHRISTINE AUSTIN, AUSTEN CURTIN, CHRIS GENNINGS, MANISH ARORA, (FOR THE EMERGENT DYNAMICAL SYSTEMS GROUP), KRISTIINA TAMMIMIES, CHARLOTTE WILLFORS, STEVE BERGGREN, PAIGE SIPER, DHEERAJ RAI, KRISTIN MEYERING, ALEXANDER KOLEVZON, JOSEPHINE MOLLON, ANTHONY S. DAVID, GLYN LEWIS, STANLEY ZAMMIT, LYNNE HEILBRUN, RAYMOND F. PALMER, ROBERT O. WRIGHT, SVEN BÖLTE, ABRAHAM REICHENBERG
SCIENCE ADVANCES30 MAY 2018 : EAAT1293
Baby tooth analysis shows that fetal and early postnatal zinc-copper metabolic rhythms predict autism risk.
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