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Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Father's age discovered to be linked to Autism : article
The prevalence of autism diagnosis has been climbing steadily since the 70's. Part of this rise in diagnosis has been atributed to more sensitive testing and increased awareness about the condition. This explains about half of the increase.
Over the years many theories have been proposed, but not proven, for such increased including environmental toxicants and iatrogenic (such as vaccines).
A recent article published in Nature brings forward one of the most solid theories for a possible cause of autism : increased paternal age.
This study, carried out in Iceland by a croup of geneticists provides some of the first solid scientific evidence for a true increase in autism.
When comparing the average paternal age in the study group in Iceland the researchers observed that the average age of fatherhood rose from 28 to 33 between 1980 and 2011.
Similarly children born in 2011 will harbour 70 new mutations, compared with 60 for a children born in 1980.
The majority such mutations are harmless, but the researchers in Iceland identified some that are linked to conditions such as autism.
The real issue now is that since it is likely that autism is multifunctional a prenatal test is very far away in the future,and may not be definitive ( it may only suggest increased risk).
So what is an older perspective father to do? Difficult question. This article in the New York Times tries to give some answers.
You can find the original Nature article here