Blame Autism on Old Dads?

Older dads and their past-due genetic contributions may increase the risk of having a child with autism.  That's right, today, mom, your decrepit eggs don't matter.  For one moment let's hold dad's body parts up to the microscope if not proverbial fire pit that is the Parenting Media.   

Some pretty incredible scientific news in these last days of summer, remarkable discoveries I might have missed it had I carried through with a threatened media-free family vacation this week.  So much for leaving the iPad at home. Anyhow, I'll write about it in more detail later but suffice it to say, the early reports suggest it's a ground-breaking study linking paternal age to increased risks of both autism and schizophrenia.

We can now blame daddy, make that daddy with the grey hairs and one hopes sizable IRA for de novo mutations, those pesky genetic mistakes according to Benedict Carey of the New York Times:  

Most people have many of these so-called de novo mutations, which occur spontaneously at or near conception, and most of them are harmless. But studies suggest that there are several such changes that can sharply increase the risk for autism and possibly schizophrenia — and the more a child has, the more likely he or she is by chance to have one of these rare, disabling ones.

Some difference between the paternal and maternal side is to be expected. Sperm cells divide every 15 days or so, whereas egg cells are relatively stable, and continual copying inevitably leads to errors, in DNA as in life. Father’s Age Is Linked to Risk of Autism and Schizophrenia, The New York Times
Haven't read the actual study published in Nature yet but researchers say these mutations may account for 15 to 30% of autism given the growing trend of putting off fatherhood. That estimate is amazing and speculative but the individual risk of having an autistic child is still very low for men considering a later in life love child, hovering around 2% even for fathers 40 or older.  Anyhow, think about investing in sperm banks with deluxe freezers and check out the media coverage if you're not trying to find tailored pants (as opposed to jeans) that don't fall off your son's skinny butt or any of the other joys associated with Back to School. 

Older Fathers Linked to Kids’ Autism and Schizophrenia Risk, Time Healthland
Father’s Age Is Linked to Risk of Autism and Schizophrenia, The New York Times
Study Says Older Fathers Linked to Autism, Gives Mothers a Break, The Daily Beast. A mother breathes a sight of relief)
Are Older Fathers a Root of Autism? Lisa Belkin, Huffington Post. Girlfriend goes after "silver-haired sex symbols" and other men of a certain age brandishing bad sperm.  Oh and their younger counterparts who we don't tell to freeze their sperm.

Cheers.  Let's hope this latest scientific discovery doesn't land in Retraction Watch. 

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