advertisement

ADHD

08 October 2019

How could baby teeth hold clues to ADHD and autism?

Researchers have identified certain key signatures in baby teeth that are unique to ADHD and autism spectrum disorder.

The causes of neurodevelopmental conditions such as ADHD and autism spectrum disorder have always mystified researchers and are generally misunderstood.

But new research from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City could bring us closer to solving the riddle. According to a study published in Translational Psychiatry in September this year, elemental signatures unique to conditions such as ADHD and autism spectrum disorder have been identified in baby teeth, which could mean that metabolic regulation of nutrients and toxins plays a role in the cause of these diseases.

According to the news report, the researchers used baby teeth to reconstruct prenatal and early-life exposures to nutrients and toxic elements in neurotypical children and children with autism, ADHD, or ADHD and autism.

This study examined the baby teeth of 74 children enrolled in the Roots of Autism and ADHD Twin Study in Sweden (RATSS), which included twin siblings with and without autism and ADHD. Researchers compared elemental metabolism in neurotypical children to those with ADHD, autism or those diagnosed with both autism and ADHD.

Metabolic signatures key to future research 

It was discovered that both conditions had a unique metabolic signature which could be a combination of dysregulation in the metabolic pathways involving essential and toxic elements.

"Environmental epidemiologists typically study exposure to essential and toxic elements by examining how much of a given element a child was exposed to, but our work indicates that the way a child metabolizes environmental exposures is essential to healthy neurodevelopment," said Paul Curtin, PhD, Assistant Professor of Environmental Medicine and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

"The discovery that autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and the combined presentation of autism and ADHD each have a unique metabolic signature can inform future studies on what might cause the disorders. It could help us determine the pathways implicated in the different diseases, which, in turn, could inform the development of treatment and prevention strategies."

Not a diagnostic tool yet

While this discovery means a lot for future research, it should not yet be treated as a diagnostic tool for ADHD and autism. It could simply have implications for the way these conditions are detected early in a child’s life.

Image credit: iStock

 

Ask the Expert

ADHD Expert

Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation (www.gb4adhd.co.za) She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules