ALS development predictor: teeth hold the key

Adults who develop amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) metabolize metals differently than those who do not develop the neurodegenerative disease, and this shows up in teeth during childhood, new research suggests.

In a new study the investigators found increased uptake of a mixture of metals - including chromium, manganese, nickel, tin, and zinc - in the teeth of those who developed ALS.

This study shows that metal dysregulation during specific periods in childhood and early adolescence is linked with the decades-later onset of ALS," senior author Manish Arora, PhD, MPH, vice chair, environmental medicine and public health, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City, told Medscape Medical News.

Specifically, in patients with ALS, they found that chromium uptake increased after age 10, whereas manganese was significantly higher from birth until approximately 6 years and it was significantly lower between age 12 and 15 years.

Nickel and tin showed discrete windows of increased uptake in the ALS group, from age 6 to 10 years for nickel and from birth to age 2 1/2 for tin. Zinc levels were significantly higher throughout the study period.

Individuals with ALS also showed an increasing trend for copper uptake between birth and 10 years and for lead from age 12 to 15 years, and a decreasing trend for lithium from birth to 15 years.

These results are in line with more recent theories that implicate an abnormal and imbalanced formation of excitatory and inhibitory connections in the human brain during embryogenesis, with the result of a slightly abnormal cell-signaling mechanism between neurons that, over the span of one's life, may lead to the hyperexcitability and abnormal calcium flux into neurons that die during the course of ALS.