Iceland researchers: father’s age linked to schizophrenia and autism risk

Older fathers are more likely to have children who develop autism and schizophrenia, new research has shown.

The news comes via a report published in the 23 August edition of the Nature journal, which said that research has revealed that the older a father is at the time of conception, the greater the risk of random mutations in their children that lead to autism and schizophrenia.

Dr Kari Stefansson, chief executive of Reykjavik-based deCODE Genetics, said, “Our results all point to the possibility that as a man ages, the number of hereditary mutations in his sperm increases, and the chance that a child would carry a deleterious mutation that could lead to diseases such as autism and schizophrenia increases proportionally,” CBS News reports.

The study, which is said to have been one of the largest genome projects ever conducted, saw researchers sequence the genetic makeup of nearly 80 local families with members that have developed schizophrenia or autism. They then compared the data with genome sequences for nearly 2,000 members of Iceland’s general population.

Dr Stefansson also explained that the findings come in contrast to previous hypotheses: “It is of interest here that conventional wisdom has been to blame developmental disorders of children on the age of mothers, whereas the only problems that come with advancing age of mothers is a risk of Down syndrome and other rare chromosomal abnormalities. It is the age of fathers that appears to be the real culprit,” Dr Stefansson said.