Autism linked with older dads

New research published in the Nature Journal has suggested that babies of older fathers are more likely to carry genetic mutations than those of younger fathers, which could lead to conditions such as autism and schizophrenia in later life.

by Louise-Anne Geddes, Mindful Mum, 23rd August 2012

In their landmark study, the scientists (led by Augustine Kong and Kari Stefansson of deCode Genetics in Reykjavik) have (for the first time) been able to count the number of new mutations linked with a father’s age at conception and have  discovered that older men are significantly more likely to have children with potentially harmful genetic changes.


The scientists examined the entire genomes of 78 Icelandic parent–offspring trios in their study.  They found that change in mutations is dominated by the age of the father at conception of the child. The effect is an increase of about two mutations per year.  The researchers allowed for variations but ultimately concluded that the father’s age was ‘estimated to explain nearly all of the remaining variation in the de novo mutation counts’.


The study concluded that ‘these observations shed light on the importance of the father’s age on the risk of diseases such as schizophrenia and autism’.  In an online editorial, Nature’s editor summarised that:

“The results show that demographic transitions that affect the age at which males reproduce can have a considerable effect on the rate of mutations, and consequently on the risk of diseases such as schizophrenia and autism”.

Source:  Nature Journal, Rate of de novo mutations and the importance of father’s age to disease risk, 22nd August 2012

Image: Kevinfruet @

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