Older Fathers and Autism

Friday, August 24, 2012

Alice Park, Time Magazine staff writer who covers health and medicine, talks about the latest research that shows older fathers increase a child's risk for autism and schizophrenia.


Alice Park

Comments [14]

Julian from Manhattan

Andrew, I just saw your comment on my comment. It is true that the germ line cells are present from the formation of the gonads, but the fact that sperm are produced from actively-dividing cells as opposed to the primordial oocytes which only undergo an initial mitotic proliferation and then divide only twice more (only once before fertilization) means that there is very little opportunity for DNA repair mechanisms to operate in the female germ line. I admit that I am not a specialist in the field, but I believe the risk of mutation resulting in congenital defects lies more with old eggs than sperm from older men. The bottom line is that "aged gonads" are more likely to produce aberrant gametes. Since the chromosomal contribution from both parents, except for the sex chromosomes, is the same, it is odd that autism would be more linked to those delivered from the male parent. I should read the study, but if it is simply that older males mating with younger females produces this effect, that is no surprise.

Aug. 25 2012 01:50 PM
John A. from the Computer Lab

I see a lot of 'chicken' on this forum. I liked the bottom line one report used: "You have to understand that the vast majority of these mutations have no consequences, and that there are tons of guys in their 50's who have healthy children.”
Also, Bill Gates is on the Autism Spectrum I believe. Once the richest man on earth.

Aug. 24 2012 01:21 PM
Andrew from New York

Julian: While individual spermatozoa are subject to mutagens for only a few days, the cell line that they are generated from, and therefore the genetic information passed to them, has been at risk of mutation from the father's conception.

Also, because this study seeks to find out if the effect exists, but does not attempt to explain its mechanism, it does not need the controls you mention. The results of a study controlled in the way you ask for might throw some light on why, but it would not alter the fact that the age of a father is a risk factor for autism and schizophrenia.

Aug. 24 2012 11:59 AM
The Truth from Becky

I don't think it is just an age issue. Men take in so many toxins into their body until it is a wonder they can fertilize an egg at all...cigars, cigarettes, alcohol, steroids, energy drinks and drugs, etc...most men don't take care their health at all!

Aug. 24 2012 11:54 AM

''older fathers [and maybe even mothers] and autism''... maybe it's because older parents have more time to accumulate more bad guys such as plastics, etc., just like the older ''blue fish'' contains more murcury than young ''blue fish''!?.... why do we think nothing of consuming highly acidic foods such as milk, ketchup, mustard, mayo, vodka, lemon [fruit juices] juice, etc.,in plastic containers?...

Aug. 24 2012 11:09 AM
Andrew from New York

Brian, both you and your correspondent seemed quite willing to turn the blame-assignment non-sequitur around in response to this news. While this result needs to be taken seriously, it was harmful and pointlessly judgmental to 'blame' mothers, and two wrongs don't make a right.

Aug. 24 2012 10:55 AM
Julian from Manhattan

The flip side of gamete production is that female eggs are present prenatally, while sperm production does not begin until puberty. There is also a meiotic division in females as they enter puberty. However, the eggs that become functional gametes have been present prenatally, whereas sperm are produced continuously. Female gametes are therefore exposed to all environmental mutagens which may be present throughout the life of the woman, while sperm only exist from the time they mature until they are ejaculated, a far shorter time, perhaps only days. The exposure to mutagens, etc. is probably a major factor in the sharp increase in congenital defects in babies born to women after the age of 35. There is also the tremendous reduction in the sperm that fertilizes an egg (one), versus the millions that are emitted in an ejaculation. This would tend to mitigate the number of aberrant sperm also tremendously. It is important to remember that the DNA repair mechanisms which operate enormously effectively in somatic cells also operate in similar ways in gamete production and in the stem cells which produce gametes in males. In addition, females contribute two X chromosomes in gamete formation, while males contribute only one: the Y chromosome basically functions only to change the sex of the fetus from the groundplan female to male. One wonders how the differential production of gametes in males and females could have been controlled for in this study in an effective way.

Aug. 24 2012 10:48 AM
John A

The NBC report last night said 22% increased risk every decade.
This reporting said doubling in 16.5 years.
Those two numbers are off by 2X. Something that will need answering somewhere...

Aug. 24 2012 10:48 AM
jonn knoxx from NYC

This is FREAKING me out.
I planned to have kids in the next 4-5 years!
I am turning 39 this year!
Should I freeze my sperm???
What about the physical healthj of the father?
I am in great shape and exercise all the time. Does stuff like that even matter?

Aug. 24 2012 10:48 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Without passing judgement about having children at older ages, if we want to be realistic, we SHOULD acknowledge that it does stretch the bounds of what nature "intended."

Genetic changes and birth defects aside, even if the child is perfectly healthy and normal, what is almost NEVER mentioned in discussions of having children at an older age, is the amount of ENERGY it takes to raise kids: the physical work of it, and the hours. Let's face it, energy levels of middle-aged folks is generally less than younger adults.

In a sense, kids of older parents are short-changed in this regard.

Aug. 24 2012 10:40 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The only logical conclusion is to get rid of old men, and artificially inseminate young women with sperm taken from young bucks. Or just get a few young studs to breed with a herd of feminists to create a race of Amazons.

Aug. 24 2012 10:39 AM
marc from Stamford CT


That "trophy wife" comment stung...autism, schizophrenia and down's are devastating, day in and day out, regardless of who parents are.


Aug. 24 2012 10:39 AM
John A.

I love the way this played out. When I was in my twenties, it was all that "You can have it all" message. Then about my age group hit 40 there started the reports for problems both for father and mother. Thank-You popular press.

Aug. 24 2012 10:38 AM
john from at desk

I am 51 year old male and wish to have a child, what does this mean to me. What is the true risk??

Aug. 24 2012 09:37 AM

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