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KUT News Staff
Texas 'Tooth Fairy' Studies Triggers for Autism
A San Antonio scientist looking for possible causes of autism is taking an unusual approach. University of Texas Health Science Center epidemiologist Dr. Raymond Palmer is using baby teeth to try to root out some answers.
The project is nicknamed “the tooth fairy studies” because to conduct his research, Dr. Palmer collects old, donated baby teeth from kids with and without autism. He is trying to discover how environmental effects -- from as early as conception – can determine whether a child develops autistic traits.
Palmer says it's nearly impossible to remember – or know – everything a child was exposed to while in the womb. But, he told Texas Public Radio, that “something happens between conception and 18 months with autism and we really don’t know what – but there’s some kind of environmental trigger.” Palmer hopes to find those triggers.
Teeth, unlike hair or blood samples, give an in-depth history of what has entered a child’s body throughout their life.
Dr. Palmer grinds the teeth into a power and then turns them into liquid and gas. The samples are then put through the process of mass spectrometry to identify things like toxins, medicine, and compounds that the children were exposed to in the womb and as they grew.
The group Autism Speaks provided $100,000 for the study.
If you’d like to donate teeth call 210-255-2293.