Could old dads be part of the reason for the increase in autistic children in recent years? A study published in the journal Nature found that the advanced ages of fathers could account for 20 to 30 percent of autism cases, the New York Times reports.
The study is important in part because it backs up other research that has pinpointed aging fathers as a possible cause for autism, and also because it refutes the idea that abnormalities occur due to the mother’s age, rather than the father’s.
The research team found that the average child born to a 20-year-old father had 25 random mutations that could be traced to paternal genetic material. The number increased steadily by two mutations a year, reaching 65 mutations for offspring of 40-year-old men.
The average number of mutations coming from the mother’s side was 15, no matter her age, the study found.
However, the Times says, this isn’t the whole story regarding climbing autism rates in the U.S.: “The birthrate of fathers age 40 and older has increased by more than 30 percent since 1980, according to government figures, but the diagnosis rate has jumped tenfold, to 1 in 88 8-year-olds.”
(Regardless, it’s important to remember that despite the much-discussed theory that vaccinations cause autism, that idea been debunked and the misinformation has led to the rise of diseases like measles in children.)
It could be that sperm will soon join eggs in the freezer at doctors’ offices — and we officially feel less creepy about once saying that we wanted to get busy with hot young 19-year-old Josh Hutcherson. It’s for our health!
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