Scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) created a novel way to measure exposure to metals by extracting samples from baby teeth. They have made a strong connection between this exposure in early-life and an increased risk for autism. It turns out that exposure can be mapped via growth layers in the teeth, much like the growth rings in trees. 1
Researchers compared tooth patterns from 32 pairs of twins and 12 individual twins. They looked at patterns in twins where only one had autism, as well as in twins where both or neither had autism. They found fewer differences between twins where both had autism and greater differences when only one of the twins had autism.
“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,” said Cindy Lawler, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Genes, Environment, and Health Branch. “With baby teeth, we can actually do that.” 2
“The findings build on prior research showing that exposure to toxic metals, such as lead, and deficiencies of essential nutrients, like manganese, may harm brain development while in the womb or during early childhood.” 3
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