Expression is a problem for those with ASD.

Researchers have known for years about the relationship between zinc and autism. Autism typically develops during the first three years of life. It is a neurological and developmental disorder and manifests in a person’s ability to interact with others. Autism affects communication, learning, and behavior and is called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) today.

Typical symptoms associated with ASD are finding it hard to understand what others are thinking or feeling, anxiety about social situations, difficulty making friends, sometimes being blunt or rude, disinterested in others, preferring to be by yourself, and feeling hard to say how you feel. There is no medical test, like a blood test, to detect ASD. A doctor must evaluate the developmental history of the person. It can be diagnosed as early as 18 months.

Treatment varies, but specialists use both development and behavioral approaches. The concentration is on speech and language. ASD is not an illness but a disorder, and there are no known cures.

Zinc and ASD Zinc is used in our bodies to build proteins and create DNA. It is also needed to build synapses, the site of electric nerve impulses between two nerve cells (a neuron and a gland or muscle cell). When a nerve signal reaches the neuron, it triggers neurotransmitters to carry the electrical nerve impulse to the next cell.

The dilemma researchers have is whether a zinc deficiency causes autism or whether it develops independently when zinc levels are abnormally low.

Latest Study A recent report published in Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience suggests that a zinc deficiency in early childhood contributes to autism. Supporting evidence is seen at

One in 60 children have autism – four times more in males. Our bodies grow at tremendous rates in the first few years of life. Neuron development is one part of the equation for growing older. Understanding the cause of a problem helps scientists to develop proper treatment. Recent studies have been focused on receptors in our central nervous system (CNS).


AMPARS (α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazoleproprionic acid receptors) are glutamate receptors in our CNS. They are extremely sensitive to the type of gene that is closely related to autism. When one neuron triggers a neurotransmitter to pass its message along to the next neuron, zinc enters the second neuron.

Three genes, SHANK1, SHANK2, and Shank3, determine whether autism is viable. The interplay of SHANK genes can determine intellectual disability and ASD. SHANK3 sends information to many parts of the body to make proteins. The brain is the recipient of this process, and the SHANK3-derived protein is critical for developing synapses in the brain’s neural system.

SHANK3 deletion syndrome is the terminology for a mutation occurring in the SHANK3 gene. It causes Phelan-McDermid syndrome (PDMS), which is a syndromic form of ASD. PDMS is a rare genetic disorder resulting in problems communicating, learning, and sleeping. A syndromic form refers to a specific pattern or combination of symptoms that collectively describe an illness, disorder, or syndrome.

ASD Causes? Researchers have determined that SHANK genes possess a complex molecular formation – akin to scaffolding on the outside of a building. Depending on where the scaffolding attaches to a building can determine the outcome of those molecular communications. Inside the brain, localization of SHANK proteins at postsynaptic sites suggests that a cause of ASD can result from improperly functioning SHANK protein.

Zinc and ASD Researchers believe they have discovered a path that might lead to developing an effective treatment for ASD. Zinc is needed to complete the communication process between neurons. SHANK2 and SHANK3 proteins accumulate in synapses as AMPARS mature. Zinc speeds up the process when only SHANK2 and SHANK3 are present.

If zinc is deficient, then the natural maturation process of AMPARS is disrupted. Normal development can be a problem. Zinc is needed for normal AMPARS development, which, in turn, means normal learning, developing, and communicating as we grow. The exciting discovery of zinc and AMPARS might be the first significant step in tackling this disorder in prevention and correction.


There are no current studies on using zinc supplements to determine the ability to control ASD. Does a person have a zinc deficiency, or is there a problem with absorption? Excess zinc can create other issues, especially with the body’s ability to absorb copper, which could lead to anemia and other maladies.

Scientists have a pathway to explore that appears to be a good road for future control of ASD.

Live Long & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin –


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