Older fathers may pass on an increased risk of autism and other mental disorders to their children.
That’s the finding of a new study published August 31 in the journal Translational Psychiatry.
The study looked at genetic mutations in male mice called copy number variations or CNV’s. Previous studies found that the children of men over 50 have twice the risk of getting autism or schizophrenia.
The study bred younger and older male mice with mothers of the same age and found significant numbers of mutations in the offspring of the older males and none in the offspring of the younger males. In humans, CNV’s have been linked to autism, schizophrenia and other brain disorders. Mice genomes and human male genomes are about 85% identical.
John McGrath, lead author of the study, hopes to look for CNV’s in humans in more studies over the next three to five years and says that “there may well be the need in the future for public health messages to men that there are risks involved in delaying parenthood.” But for now, those contemplating parenthood just need to be aware that paternal age can potentially increase the risk for autism and other brain disorders.