With about one in six children in the United States diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders, it is high time that the world understands these conditions better. Emerging studies have been trying to identify the causes of neurodevelopmental disorders like ADHD and Autism.

One such recent research suggests that “signatures” pertaining to metabolism in the teeth of babies help identify if the child has neurodevelopmental disorders like Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These kinds of signatures are based on the alterations in the metabolism of certain essential elements and toxic metals. And such a phenomenon suggests that metabolic regulation of nutrients and toxins play a vital role in neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism and ADHD.

The research team used naturally shed baby teeth to reconstruct prenatal and early-life exposures to various nutrients and toxic elements. Using a laser ablation technique, they sampled each tooth at about 152 locations. The temporal profiles of elements like lead, zinc, cobalt, vanadium, etc were measured in 13 children with ADHD, eight children with autism, 12 other children who had both the conditions and 41 children who had normal development. Their findings suggested that certain distinct elemental signatures were found in children who had ADHD, autism or both.

The coauthor Dr. Christine Austin, Ph.D., Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York opines that this discovery that autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and the combined presentation of both have a unique metabolic signature and further research is required to determine what causes these. "It could help us determine the pathways implicated in the different diseases, which, in turn, could inform the development of treatment and prevention strategies," she said.

She has also cautioned that it would be premature to use this phenomenon as markers to diagnose these neurodevelopmental disorders. "It's important to stress that this is not a diagnostic tool, but because we are picking up this dysregulation in metabolism during the prenatal period, there are potential implications for an early detection tool — with a lot more research", she further added.

This research is a continuation of a previous one led by the same team which found that children with autism had disrupted zinc-copper metabolism patterns prenatally and during their first few months after birth.