Study: Older males more likely to father child with autism

By WEEK Producer
By NBC News

Study: Older males more likely to father child with autism

August 23, 2012 Updated Aug 23, 2012 at 1:24 PM CDT

ICELAND -- A new study suggests older men may be more likely than younger men to father children who develop autism or schizophrenia.

The research comes from a company called Decode Genetics in Iceland, which analyzed genetic material from blood samples.

Scientists discovered that as men age, their sperm cells undergo genetic mutations that are then passed onto the unborn child. Many of those mutations are harmless, but the more a child receives, the greater his or her chances of developing a serious disorder.

A 20-year-old man passes on an average of 20 mutations, while a 40-year-old man can pass on 65.

Doctors caution this is one tiny piece of the massive puzzle of autism and say more research needs to be done.

This study is published in the journal Nature.

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