What are Autism and Schizophrenia?
Autism is categorised as a developmental disorder, which may strike in the first three years of the life of a child. It is characterised by the child’s inability to communicate correctly and leads to social problems and withdrawal.
Schizophrenia is a mental health condition in which the sufferer develops disturbed thought patterns which lead to a distortion of their reality, as with Autism it can be extremely distressing for parents and other close family members to witness.
This study, which was conducted by the Icelandic company Decode Genetics found that in blood samples which were taken from seventy eight participating parent and children combinations, there were more random genetic mutations that could suggest a link between these two conditions and the age of the father. The risks seemed to be higher in men who became parents after the age of thirty five, with a further two percent increase after the age of forty. There seems to be little or no risk from the genetics of the mother increasing these possibilities.
Professor Fred Volkmar who is director of the Child Study Centre at Yale University commented in an interview with the New York Times that “This study provides some of the first solid scientific evidence for a true increase in the condition of Autism, it is extremely well done and the sample is meticulously characterised”
No need to put off fatherhood
Experts were at pains to point out that the results of these studies did not necessarily mean that these factors were a foregone conclusion and that there was no need to worry in cases were fatherhood had been left until later in life. Evan E Eichler, who is a Professor of Genome Science at the University of Washington in Seattle says that “You have to understand that the vast majority of these mutations have no consequence and that there are tons of guys in their fifties who have healthy children”. A full report on this story can be read here.