AirTalk for August 23, 2012

Dads have a biological clock too

Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs

David Banks/Getty Images

A father and son watch batting practice before the start of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds on August 11, 2012 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.

A team of researchers in Iceland has made a genetic discovery that could have major implications for older dads. Those who become fathers later in life, they say, pass on genetic mutations to their children at nearly double the rate of younger dads.

The child of a 20-year-old dad has 25 random mutations that can be traced to his father, while the child of a father in his forties can have up to 65. By contrast, women of any age pass on around 15. While most of the mutations were insignificant, the researchers did link them to an increased likelihood of diseases such as autism and schizophrenia.

Out of the 78 father/mother/child genomes sequenced, over half of the children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and 21 with schizophrenia. In fact, the figures indicate that increased rates of autism over recent decades could account for 20 to 30 percent of autism cases.

Guest:

Kári Stefánsson, M.D., co-founder and CEO of deCODE genetics Inc., and senior author on the study

Arthur Caplan, Professor of Medical Ethics at New York University Langone Medical Center


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