Project 1: Early life metal exposures and cognitive aging

Animal studies suggest a relationship between early life exosure to metals and cognitive decline in later life. Given the length of the human lifespan, careful investigation of pre and early postnatal exposures on late life outcomes in people presents a challenge.

Our Goals

We have a unique opportunity follow-up on a group of older adults who participated in a research study as children in the 1950s and 1960s. Using their previously collected baby tooth samples we aim to

  • determine the association between early-life metal exposures and cognitive function in older age, and to
  • explore possible epigenetic mechanisms for such associations

graphic of timeline from exposure to health outcome

Our Approach

This is a cohort study of a subset of participants in the original St. Louis Baby Tooth (SLBT) study who donated their baby teeth in the 1950s and 1960s and are now in their 60s and 70s. We are locating these tooth donors and recruiting them to participate in further testing.

To determine the relationship between early life metal exposures and late life cognitive function, we will correlate concentrations of metals in their baby tooth enamel (measured using laser-ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, LA-ICP-MS), with their performance in an online cognitive test battery.

To explore possible epigenetic mechanisms for any associations, we will collect blood samples from a subset of participants to examine the relationship of EV miRNA expression (see Project 2) to the metals and cognitive findings.

Project 1 Team