Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 2014


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Chemistry and Biochemistry


Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Committee Chair

H. M. Skip Kingston

Committee Member

Scott Faber

Committee Member

M. Rita Mihailescu

Committee Member

Stephanie J Wetzel


Autism spectrum disorders, Dietary supplements, Elemental analysis, Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry, Isotope Dilution Mass Spectrometry, Microwave-enhanced chemistry


Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are neurological developmental disorders that affect communication and social interaction. They are becoming more important to society as their rate has risen dramatically over the past 30 years. Presently, there is no known cure for ASDs and the current research focuses on improvements in diagnosis and different types of treatments. The most significant contribution of the research described in this dissertation is the application of advanced mass spectrometric measurement techniques that provide higher accuracy and precision to the diagnosis and treatment of ASDs. The treatment of ASDs was assessed through the evaluation of elemental contamination in dietary supplements. Elemental contamination was discovered to exist in the dietary supplements through the application of standard United States Environmental Protection Agency methods for both sample preparation and analysis. The diagnosis of ASDs was evaluated through the search for biomarkers. The plasma zinc/serum copper ratio may be a biomarker that indicates stress on the metallothionein system of children with ASDs. Biomarkers during treatment in autism were sought in a cleanroom study demonstrating that the younger children responded better to the cleanroom experience compared to older children through noteworthy behavioral and physiological changes. The comparative analysis of children with autism and controls had results indicating the possibility of children with autism showing characteristics of the toxicant-induced loss of tolerance theory of disease. Measurement comparisons were performed between the analytical methods and the commercial clinical laboratory that demonstrated the superior quality of the analytical measurements. Overall, the work described in this dissertation demonstrated the power of advanced mass spectrometric analysis techniques through the application to the diagnosis and treatment of ASDs. A greater understanding of children with autism has been accomplished through the discovery of potential biomarkers and characteristics unique to them. The work in this dissertation can be applied to other diseases and other types of measurements using the principles described throughout it. Finally, the work has shown the importance of measurement in achieving accurate and precise data that leads to the greatest understanding and knowledge.