Child mutations stem from paternal side, landmark study shows
Babies of older fathers are more likely to carry genetic mutations than those of younger fathers.
And the mutations could lead to illnesses such as autism and schizophrenia in later life, a landmark study has shown.
Scientists have, for the first time, counted the number of new mutations linked with a father’s age at the time of conception and have concluded that older men are significantly more likely to have children with potentially harmful genetic changes.
The results could explain previous studies showing that certain mental and developmental illnesses with strong genetic components tend to be more common among people whose fathers were older at the time of conception.
Although the age of a child’s mother has been linked with problems associated with chromosomal defects, such as Down’s syndrome, there has been scant information about the contribution made by older fathers to the future health of their offspring.
“These observations shed light on the importance of the father’s age on the risk of diseases such as schizophrenia and autism,” the researchers say in their study published in the journal Nature. The scientists found that a new-born baby’s genome contains around 60 new small-scale mutations compared with its parents and that the actual number of new mutations carried by each child was strongly dependent on the age of the father, rather than the mother, at the time of conception.