Metabolic Brain Disease

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 887–890 | Cite as

Evaluation of whole blood zinc and copper levels in children with autism spectrum disorder

  • Elena Cristina Crăciun
  • Geir BjørklundEmail author
  • Alexey A. Tinkov
  • Mauricio A. Urbina
  • Anatoly V. Skalny
  • Florina Rad
  • Eleonora Dronca
Original Article


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.


Autism Copper Zinc Whole blood Children 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the authorship, and/or publication of this paper.

Ethical approval

All procedures were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee/s and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elena Cristina Crăciun
    • 1
  • Geir Bjørklund
    • 2
    Email author
  • Alexey A. Tinkov
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Mauricio A. Urbina
    • 6
    • 7
  • Anatoly V. Skalny
    • 4
    • 5
  • Florina Rad
    • 8
  • Eleonora Dronca
    • 9
  1. 1.Pharmaceutical Biochemistry and Clinical Laboratory Department, Faculty of PharmacyIuliu Haţieganu University of Medicine and PharmacyCluj-NapocaRomania
  2. 2.Council for Nutritional and Environmental MedicineMo i RanaNorway
  3. 3.Department of BiochemistryOrenburg State Medical UniversityOrenburgRussia
  4. 4.Orenburg State UniversityOrenburgRussia
  5. 5.All-Russian Research Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (VILAR)MoscowRussia
  6. 6.Department of Biosciences, College of Life and Environmental SciencesUniversity of ExeterExeterUK
  7. 7.Departamento de Zoología, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y OceanográficasUniversidad de ConcepciónConcepciónChile
  8. 8.Child and Adolescent Psychiatry DepartmentCarol Davila University of Medicine and PharmacyBucharestRomania
  9. 9.Department of Molecular Sciences, Faculty of MedicineIuliu Haţieganu University of Medicine and PharmacyCluj-NapocaRomania

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