Evaluation of whole blood zinc and copper levels in children with autism spectrum disorder
Zinc (Zn) and copper (Cu) are important trace elements for cognitive development and normal neurological functioning. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a common neurological disorder, which has previously been associated with the levels of some trace elements in the blood.
However, clinical data regarding the potential implication of Zn and Cu in patients with ASD are still insufficient. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to investigate the whole blood levels of Zn and Cu in a cohort of 28 children with ASD and 28 age- and gender-matched healthy controls.
Whole blood Zn and Cu levels were assessed using inductively-coupled plasma-sector field mass spectrometry. Both in the control and in the ASD group, the values of whole blood Cu and Zn were characterized by a Gaussian distribution.
The results indicate that the ASD children were characterized by ~10 % (p = 0.005) and ~12 % (p = 0.015) lower levels of whole blood Zn and Zn/Cu ratio, respectively, in comparison to controls. No significant difference in whole blood Cu was observed. However, Cu/Zn ratio was ~15 % (p = 0.008) higher in ASD children than that in the control ones.
The results of the present study may be indicative of Zn deficiency in ASD children. Taking into account Zn-mediated up-regulation of metallothionein (MT) gene expression, these findings suggest a possible alteration in the functioning of the neuroprotective MT system. However, further investigations are required to test this hypothesis.