Interesting bit of research from American Association for the Advancement of Science. Here’s the link
The extended culture of keeping a child’s fallen baby teeth to be collected by imaginary figures such as the “tooth fairy” might turn out to be of scientific value. In recent work, Modabbernia et al. used baby teeth to track a person’s prenatal and infant exposure to metals and then correlated this exposure with psychotic behavior that emerged later in life. Environmental insults such as exposure to metals during brain development are known to increase the risk for neurodevelopmental and behavioral disorders in children. The long-term effect of such exposure, however, has remained under-researched partly because of the lack of analytical methods that allow for tracking early exposure in individuals diagnosed with a behavioral disorder that emerges later in life.
In their new study, Modabbernia et al. use laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS), in which a laser beam is used to generate particles from solid samples (baby teeth in this case) to be later analyzed by mass spectrometry. They then measured exposure to metals at several stages in prenatal and postnatal development. Baby teeth begin to form at different points during prenatal development, absorbing chemicals circulating through the baby’s body. By analyzing dentine layers corresponding to specific life stages, Modabbernia and collaborators generated estimates of exposure to several metals including manganese, lead, cadmium, copper, magnesium, and zinc during pregnancy and early childhood (from 4 months before birth to 6 months after birth), in 9 individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia and 5 healthy controls. Despite the small sample size, the authors found statistically significant increased lead concentrations in the baby teeth of patients compared with controls at all developmental time periods analyzed, as well as some trends for other metals. In addition, lead concentrations positively correlated with severity of psychotic experiences and inversely correlated (specifically during the prenatal stage) with IQ. Although bigger sample sizes and a broader look into other potential toxins are needed to ascertain the role of early life environment in schizophrenia, this approach provides a useful tool to reconstruct prenatal and early postnatal chemical environmental exposures in individuals diagnosed with neuropsychiatric disorders later in life.
A. Modabbernia et al., Early-life metal exposure and schizophrenia: A proof-of-concept study using novel tooth-matrix biomarkers. Eur. Psychiatry 36, 1–6 (2016). [Abstract]
Copyright © 2016, American Association for the Advancement of Science
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