Advanced maternal age has been a topic of concern for increased risk of health problems and Downs Syndrome in babies but recent research now points to concerns with advanced paternal age. Studies from Icelandic scientists has found that certain genetic variations common in older men may contribute to the increased presence of health issues such as autism and schizophrenia in their offspring.
These genetic changes in the paternal DNA occur because of several factors including environmental characteristics, and flaws that happen when cells divide. The study data indicated that each year of additional age represents two additional cell mutations that are eventually passed down to the child.
The First Study of its Kind
Interestingly, no previous studies had been able to quantify the amount of mutations that are passed on to children from their fathers, and data shows that mothers always transfer about 15 mutations to their children regardless of how old they are when they conceive. This study examined the DNA from 78 Icelandic families. However, if future studies confirm similar findings, genetic experts suggest that fathers should consider collecting their sperm while they are still young, and saving it until they are ready to father a child.
Strong Effects on the Mind
If you’re curious about why this study seems to focus on mental disorders, scientists say that it’s because genes express themselves most readily in the brain as opposed to other parts of the body.
The most recent statistics about autism show that one in 88 children is affected by it, or a related disorder. However, some scientists stop short of saying that there is a definitely a link between older men and their children having an increased chance of coping with autism. Since research still remains to be done, experts caution that the growing number of autism instances could partially be a result of better diagnosis methods.
Regardless of the findings of future scientific efforts, improved awareness about the possibilities could potentially help children and their families enjoy more productive lives because disorders may be spotted sooner.
For more info on the study and this story check the Washington Post.