Wednesday, August 31, 2011
By Lauren Cox
updated 8/30/2011 12:53:22 PM ET
Children of older fathers are more likely to be diagnosed with autism, schizophrenia and a number of other neuropsychiatric or developmental disorders, and a new study reveals why this may be.
The results show that older male mice are more likely than younger males to have offspring with mutations in genes that correspond to human genes associated with these neurological conditions. The genomes of mice and men are roughly 85 percent identical.
"Mice do not get schizophrenia or autism," said Dr. John McGrath, senior author of the study published today (Aug.30) in the journal Translational Psychiatry. "But, we have found previously that the offspring of older mice have subtle changes in brain structure and behavior."
When digging through the mice genomes, the researchers found new mutations in the baby mice that weren't present in either parent. Offspring of the older male mice showed six new mutations that, when matched to their human equivalent genes, have been linked to autism and schizophrenia in humans. The offspring of the young male mice had none of these genetic mutations.