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Study: Male sperm possible cause for autism, schizophrenia
A study published in the “Nature” journal indicates that paternal age, specifically the health of their sperm, may be an indicator as to whether a child will develop schizophrenia or autism later in life as per reports from DeCode on August 23, 2012.
The frequency with which children are diagnosed with autism has caused increased concern over the years.
Researchers found genetic differences or mutations present in the male sperm may be a factor in the onset of either condition. While the female egg is present in the mother’s body since her birth, it does not mutate like the male sperm does on a regular basis.
This does not mean the father’s sperm is the deciding factor in whether a child will develop autism or schizophrenia, but it sheds light on whether a child who is already predisposed to the disease will be more likely to manifest it if his or her father is of an advanced age.
Lead researcher Dr. Kari Stefansson comments:
“It is absolutely stunning that the father’s age accounted for all this added risk, given the possibility of environmental factors and the diversity of the population.
And it’s stunning that so little is contributed by the age of the mother.”
Stefansson adds: “Strikingly, this study found that a father’s age at the time a child is conceived explains nearly all of the population diversity in new hereditary mutations found in the offspring,”
Nature.com explains: “The study does not prove that older fathers are more likely than younger ones to pass on disease-associated or other deleterious genes, but that is the strong implication, Stefánsson and other geneticists say.”
What factors do you think are responsible for why a child will or will not be diagnosed with autism or schizophrenia at some time in their life? How much truth do you think there is to the notion that older fathers are more likely to have children who are autistic or schizophrenic at one point or another?
In what ways do you see research will change its lens regarding how it views autism and mothers? To date, mothers were often blamed for a child’s autism diagnosis, be it her diet, age, temperament, etc. during her pregnancy. Now, with the focus shifting to a father’s age and health, what will the new wave of autism and schizophrenia research look like?
Sources: NY Times, Nature.com, CBS News, DeCode