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Early-life metal exposure and schizophrenia: A proof-of-concept study using novel tooth-matrix biomarkers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

A. Modabbernia, E. Velthorst, C. Gennings, L. De Haan, C. Austin, A. Sutterland, J. Mollon, S. Frangou, R. Wright, M. Arora, A. Reichenberg

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Psychiatry
Early online date14 Jun 2016
Accepted/In press21 Mar 2016
E-pub ahead of print14 Jun 2016
PublishedAug 2016

King's Authors


Background Despite evidence for the effects of metals on neurodevelopment, the long-term effects on mental health remain unclear due to methodological limitations. Our objective was to determine the feasibility of studying metal exposure during critical neurodevelopmental periods and to explore the association between early-life metal exposure and adult schizophrenia. Methods We analyzed childhood-shed teeth from nine individuals with schizophrenia and five healthy controls. We investigated the association between exposure to lead (Pb2+), manganese (Mn2+), cadmium (Cd2+), copper (Cu2+), magnesium (Mg2+), and zinc (Zn2+), and schizophrenia, psychotic experiences, and intelligence quotient (IQ). We reconstructed the dose and timing of early-life metal exposures using laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Results We found higher early-life Pb2+ exposure among patients with schizophrenia than controls. The differences in log Mn2+ and log Cu2+ changed relatively linearly over time to postnatal negative values. There was a positive correlation between early-life Pb2+ levels and psychotic experiences in adulthood. Moreover, we found a negative correlation between Pb2+ levels and adult IQ. Conclusions In our proof-of-concept study, using tooth-matrix biomarker that provides direct measurement of exposure in the fetus and newborn, we provide support for the role of metal exposure during critical neurodevelopmental periods in psychosis.

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