"It is very possible that PATERNAL AGE is the major predictor of(non-familial) autism." Harry Fisch, M.D., author "The Male Biological Clock". Sperm DNA mutates and autism, schizophrenia bipolar etc. results. What is the connection with autoimmune disorders? Having Type 1 diabetes, SLE,etc. in the family, also if mother had older father. NW Cryobank will not accept a sperm donor past 35th BD to minimize genetic abnormalities.VACCINATIONS also cause autism.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

her mother was age 41 and her father was 40 at the time of her conception.

Sunday, November 30, 2008
Triple X syndrome
Triple X syndrome is a form of chromosomal variation characterized by the presence of an extra X chromosome in each cell of a human female. The condition is also known as triplo-X, trisomy X, XXX syndrome, and 47,XXX aneuploidy. Triple X results during division of a parent's reproductive cells and occurs about once in every 1,000 births. Unlike most other chromosomal conditions (such as fragile X), there is usually no distinguishable difference to the naked eye between women with triple X and the rest of the female population.

Triple X syndrome is not inherited, but usually occurs as an event during the formation of reproductive cells (ovum and sperm). An error in cell division called nondisjunction can result in reproductive cells with additional chromosomes. For example, an oocyte or sperm cell may gain an extra copy of the X chromosome as a result of the nondisjunction. If one of these cells contributes to the genetic makeup of a child, the child will have an extra X chromosome in each of her cells. In some cases, trisomy X occurs during cell division in early embryonic development.

Some females with triple X syndrome have an extra X chromosome in only some of their cells. These cases are called 46,XX/47,XXX mosaics.

Due to inactivation and formation of a Barr body in all female cells, only one X chromosome is active at any time in a female cell. Thus, triple X syndrome most often causes no unusual physical features or medical problems. Females with the condition may have menstrual irregularities, and, although rarely exhibiting severe mental impairments, have an increased risk of learning disabilities, delayed speech, and language skills.

In Triple X, XYY and Klinefelter's syndrome, a lanky/youthful appearance with increased facial beauty has been described, or in some instances varying degrees of androgeny, but these cases usually reflect traits present in near relatives. An individual producing a child with the above abnormalities has higher than average risk to produce more. Most commonly, there is no observable difference in triple X, other than being taller than average. The additional X chromosome can come from either the maternal or paternal side. The condition is verified only by karyotype testing.

Most women with triple X have normal sexual development accompanied with prolonged physical/emotional youth and are able to conceive children. Some experience an early onset of menstruation. Triple X women are rarely diagnosed, apart from pre-natal testing methods, such as amniocentesis and blood tests for medical reasons later in life. Most medical professionals do not regard the condition a disability. However, such status can be sought by parents for early intervention treatment if mild delays are present.

Triple X syndrome occurs in around 1 in 1,000 girls. On average, five to ten girls with triple X syndrome are born in the United States each day.

First case
The first published report of a woman with a 47,XXX karyotype was by Patricia A. Jacobs, et al. at Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1959. It was found in a 35-year-old, 5 ft. 9 in. (176 cm) tall, 128 lb. (58.2 kg) woman who had premature ovarian failure at age 19; her mother was age 41 and her father was 40 at the time of her conception.

Posted by kazim at 5:06 AM


Schizophrenia Risk Rises with Father’s Age

Schizophrenia Risk Rises with Father’s Age
ISLAMABAD: Children fathered by older men have an increased risk of schizophrenia in later life, possibly because of mutations in their father’s DNA, according to a new study from Sweden.

A link between paternal age and schizophrenia has been reported before but scientists were not sure whether this was due to increasing mutations with advancing age or the result of inherited personality traits.

To find out, researchers at the University of Wales College of Medicine in Cardiff and Gothenburg University in Sweden examined the medical records of 50,087 Swedish army conscripts recruited between 1969 and 1970.

Their findings, reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry, show that 362 of the former soldiers had been diagnosed with schizophrenia by 1996.

Their fathers’ ages varied between 19 and 65. In a control group of men without schizophrenia, the fathers’ ages ranged from 15 to 75.

The study found that the odds of developing schizophrenia increased by 30 percent for each 10-year increase in paternal age.

Adjusting for poor social integration had only a minimal effect on the findings, suggesting personality traits were not a major factor.

"This supports the hypothesis that accumulating germ cell mutations may lead to an increase in genetic liability to schizophrenia in the offspring," Dr Stanley Zammit, from the University of Wales, said.


Friday, November 28, 2008

NEW STUDY - "Mitochondrial Autism" is Real; Vaccine Triggers Cannot Be Ruled Out By David Kirby

David KirbyPosted November 28, 2008 | 05:08 PM (EST)
NEW STUDY - "Mitochondrial Autism" is Real; Vaccine Triggers Cannot Be Ruled Out

Share Print CommentsThe December 1st issue of Time Magazine carries a special section on "The Year in Medicine," which mentions the case of Hannah Poling, the young girl with autism who received compensation from the federal vaccine injury program. Like many news accounts back then, Time has called the case "rare," because it involved an underlying dysfunction of Hannah's mitochondria, the little powerhouses within each cell that produce energy.

The widespread misconception that Hannah's case was "unique," and without any bearing on other autism cases, was promulgated by opinion leaders such as CDC Director Julie Gerberding and the newly rich vaccine inventor Dr. Paul Offit, (who told Newsweek that his share of the royalties from the vaccine was "like winning the lottery.")

But on Wednesday, a new chart-review study was published showing that "mitochondrial autism" is not rare at all.

"These and prior data suggest a disturbance of mitochondrial energy production as an underlying pathophysiological mechanism in a subset of individuals with autism," wrote the authors of the study, "Mitochondrial Disease in Autism Spectrum Disorder Patients: A Cohort Analysis."

In fact, the authors wrote that mitochondrial dysfunction "may be present in a substantial percentage of children with ASD." (They did not mention prevalence in adults with autism).

I first reported on this phenomenon back in March, when I interviewed one the of the study's authors. Back then, I wrote that mitochondrial dysfunction was detected in 7-to-30 percent of people with autism, and that genetic mutations that might confer such dysfunction could be as common as 1 in 50 people in the general population.

Now, I freely admit that I do not understand everything written in this new study. But there are a few things that I think are worth pointing out. ...

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Anti-Depressant-Associated Changes In Semen Parameters

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Anti-Depressant-Associated Changes In Semen Parameters

Editor's Choice
Main Category: Depression
Also Included In: Urology / Nephrology; Fertility; Psychology / Psychiatry
Article Date: 28 Nov 2008 - 1:00 PST

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA, USA ( - The authors previously reported an effect of antidepressants on semen parameters. The current study was designed to assess/confirm their prior report of the effects of an SSRI, paroxetine (Paxil), on semen parameters.

This was a prospective clinical trial involving 35 healthy male volunteers ages 18-65. SA were obtained prior and 2 weeks and 4 weeks after SSRI initiation. Paroxetine was given for 5weeks: 10mg QD week 1, 20mg QD week 2, 30mg QD weeks 3-4, and 20mg QD week 5. Standard WHO evaluation of semen parameters was assessed.

TUNEL assays were performed on baseline and week 4 semen samples to evaluate DNA fragmentation. Semen parameters and TUNEL assays for each individual were compared at each time point.

As opposed to prior report, semen parameters (volume, concentration, motility, morphology) were not significantly altered during SSRI treatment. However, mean DNA fragmentation TUNEL score was significantly higher on SSRI (30.3%) versus baseline (13.8%). Multivariate logistic regression, correcting for age and body mass index, confirmed that SSRI treatment was significantly correlated with increased DNA fragmentation Up to 35% of men noted significant changes in erectile function and up to 47% of subjects reported ejaculatory difficulties while on paroxetine.

Conclusions: In volunteer male subjects with normal semen parameters, paroxetine induced abnormal sperm DNA fragmentation in a significant proportion of patients. This effect occurred without a measurable effect on semen parameters. The fertility potential of a substantial proportion of men on paroxetine may be adversely affected by these changes in sperm DNA integrity.

Editorial Comment: This is an interesting study. The data refutes prior report by the same group indicating the effect on gross semen parameters and sperm transport mechanisms. None of these parameters were significantly different from baseline. However, this study noted an interesting and potentially significant change in DNA fragmentation. However, the mean DNA sperm fragmentation of 30.3% is at the upper limit of normal. The authors hypothesize that this may reflect delayed transport of sperm. The reported effect on sexual dysfunction is not surprising. Further studies are needed to assess the potential clinical significance of this interesting observation.

Presented by C. Tanrikut, et al., at the 64th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine - November 8 - 12, 2008 - San Francisco, California

Reported by Contributing Editor Harris M. Nagler, MD

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Human Molecular Genetics Advance Access originally published online on September 9, 2008
Human Molecular Genetics 2008 17(24):3887-3896; doi:10.1093/hmg/ddn291

© The Author 2008. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email:

Association of common variants in the Joubert syndrome gene (AHI1) with autism
Ana I. Alvarez Retuerto1, Rita M. Cantor2, Joseph G. Gleeson4, Anna Ustaszewska5, Wendy S. Schackwitz5,6, Len A. Pennacchio5,6 and Daniel H. Geschwind1,2,3,*
1 Center for Autism Research and Treatment Semel Institute, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA 2 Department of Human Genetics 3 Department of Neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA 4 Department of Neurosciences, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0691, USA 5 US Department of Energy, Joint Genome Institute, Walnut Creek, CA 94598, USA 6 Genomics Division, MS 84–171, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA

* To whom correspondence should be addressed at: Department of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine, 695 Charles E. Young Drive South, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1761, USA. Tel: +1 3102066814; Fax: +1 3102672401; Email:

Received March 18, 2008; Revised June 25, 2008; Accepted September 8, 2008

It has been suggested that autism, like other complex genetic disorders, may benefit from the study of rare or Mendelian variants associated with syndromic or non-syndromic forms of the disease. However, there are few examples in which common variation in genes causing a Mendelian neuropsychiatric disorder has been shown to contribute to disease susceptibility in an allied common condition. Joubert syndrome (JS) is a rare recessively inherited disorder, with mutations reported at several loci including the gene Abelson’s Helper Integration 1 (AHI1). A significant proportion of patients with JS, in some studies up to 40%, have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and several linkage studies in ASD have nominally implicated the region on 6q where AHI1 resides. To evaluate AHI1 in ASD, we performed a three-stage analysis of AHI1 as an a priori candidate gene for autism. Re-sequencing was first used to screen AHI1, followed by two subsequent association studies, one limited and one covering the gene more completely, in Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) families. In stage 3, we found evidence of an associated haplotype in AHI1 with ASD after correction for multiple comparisons, in a region of the gene that had been previously associated with schizophrenia. These data suggest a role for AHI1 in common disorders affecting human cognition and behavior.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

2. DNA damage is significantly related to age

Fertility News Useful Links Video Library

Sperm DNA Damage: Correlation To Severity Of Semen Abnormalities

Main Category: Fertility
Also Included In: Urology / Nephrology; Genetics
Article Date: 24 Nov 2008 - 1:00 PST

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA, USA ( - Evaluation of male fertility includes assessment of the standard semen parameters (SSP) and may include assessment of DNA damage. However, the relationship between DNA damage and SSP remains controversial. This study examined the the relationship of DNA damage to SSP in patients presenting for infertility evaluation.

The authors conducted an IRB approved retrospective review of semen samples from 2586 unselected non-azoospermic patients underwent computer-assisted semen analysis and flow cytometry based sperm DNA damage assessment expressed as the DNA Fragmentation Index (DFI). DFI was significantly negatively correlated to sperm concentration, motility, and normal morphology and positively correlated to age (P<0.001). DNA damage increased in relationship to the number of abnormalities in the SSP (P <0.001).

The authors concluded:

1. DNA damage is significantly related to standard parameters of semen analysis
2. DNA damage is significantly related to age
3. The degree of DNA damage increases with the number of abnormal parameters in a sample and is most severe in patients with oligo-astheno-teratospermia (OAT).

Editorial Comments:

The authors demonstrate the relationship between progressively more abnormal semen parameters and abnormal DFI. This is consistent with clinical observations and does not appear to demonstrate any incremental value to DFI assessment, in clinical practice, in the initial assessment of the infertile male.

Presented by S. I. Moskovtsev, J. Willis, and J. White, et al., at the 64th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine - November 8 - 12, 2008 - San Francisco, California

Reported by Contributing Editor Harris M. Nagler, MD

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Dr. Christopher Walsh Genetic Familial Autism

The Key to Preventing Non Familial autism, schizophrenia and bipolar is paternal age by 30

Yo, dude, check your bio clock -- now
New studies warn that it isn't just women who become less fertile as they age
Sarah Treleaven , The Ottawa Citizen
Recently, I've had a lot of conversations about baby-making with my male friends.

"I worry that I might be too selfish to ever have children," said my friend Joe, 29, somewhat pensively over gin and cucumber cocktails. Ditto for Colin, who just broke up with a woman he loves because she wants to have kids in the next few years and, at 35, he just doesn't feel ready yet. Kids or no, they both feel like they have all the time in the world to decide.

I, on the other hand, just turned 30 and have been making a lot of jokes about needing an apartment with a second bedroom for my soon-to-be-frozen eggs.

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Font:****Lots of women wring their hands about having a baby. Not only do we have to worry about our plummeting fertility (which begins to tank in our mid-20s), but we also have to worry about job retention and advancement once those kids (come biology, adoption or surrogacy) eventually appear. And it's the physical limitations of the female ability to procreate that have placed such a heavy emphasis on the reproductive biological clock, shaping the way many women live, work and even date.

But evidence is increasingly emerging that men, too, have a reproductive biological clock -- and that it ticks much more loudly than most of us have thought. Even as stories occasionally emerge about septuagenarian and octogenarian men becoming proud papas -- author Saul Bellow, for example, fathered a child at 84 -- several recent studies are challenging the conventional wisdom that men have an invincible ability to procreate.

A French study released in July found that women's pregnancy rates drop and miscarriages increase when the mother is over 35 and the father is over 40. Another study suggests that a man's fertility begins to decrease as early as his 20s. Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory tested men between the ages of 22 and 80, and found that semen volume and sperm motility were both significantly compromised by aging.

Additionally, the increased odds for older fathers producing genetic abnormalities have been well documented, and studies have demonstrated that fathers over 40 are six times more likely to produce an autistic child than fathers under 30.

The numbers related to schizophrenia are similarly compelling. A study utilizing health databases in Jerusalem found that fathers over 40 were twice as likely to produce schizophrenic children as fathers who were under 25; for fathers over 50, the odds tripled when compared to fathers who were under 25.

Dr. Harry Fisch, director of the Male Reproductive Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and the author of The Male Biological Clock, says that he's been ringing the alarm bell for years.

"There's a female biological clock; we all agree on the decline in fertility, more genetic problems and a decline in estrogen.

"The same thing happens in men -- a little bit differently, but essentially the same," Fisch says. "Why is it important? Well, demographically more men and women are waiting until they're over 30 to have a baby."New studies warn that it isn't just women who become less fertile as they age
Sarah Treleaven , The Ottawa Citizen
"Over 35, the women are at risk for genetic problems, the men's sperm is at risk for genetic problems; put it together and I consider it a public health concern."

Women in their mid-30s routinely panic about their odds of conception and the health of their baby. The key question associated with the emerging science is this: Is it time for men to start panicking too?

Many fertility experts remain unconvinced that these recent findings are significant. Dr. Paul Claman of the Ottawa Fertility Centre says that men do indeed have a reproductive clock, but that it pales in comparison to the biological reality women face.

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Font:****"Recent data have shown that there are some genetic issues with men as they get older, but much less profound than with women," Claman says.

Dr. Armand Zini, associate professor of urology at McGill University, agrees. "(With) women, there's a real time point where it ceases. Once you cease to ovulate, there's no fertility. In men, it's a very gradual decline from 30s or early 40s."

Women only produce a set number of eggs, and by the time they've reached their early 30s, that supply is significantly compromised. Men, on the other hand, produce sperm throughout their lives, which explains how a 90-year-old farmer in India became a father last year to his 21st child.

Both men and women who choose younger partners (under the age of 35) increase their odds for both conception and newborn health. "An older woman married to a younger man has a much higher chance of getting pregnant than an older woman married to a man her age or older," says Claman.

Interpretations of these new studies may be varied, but will any of this new evidence be enough to get men thinking about the sand running through their reproductive hourglass?

Jason McBride, a 39-year-old writer without children, says the recent studies about male fertility don't concern him in the least. He does acknowledge that he gets pressure from his family to have kids -- "mostly from my hilarious aunt who's always talking about how old my sperm is." But he believes that his option to become a biological parent will remain available for a long time yet. "My biological clock is still on snooze," he says.

Dustin Parkes, on the other hand, is a 28-year old public relations consultant who feels compelled to have kids while he's still relatively young. "I definitely don't want to be a broken-down old man chasing around a toddler." He holds out little hope that he'll meet his goal of being a dad before he's 30, but he, too, acknowledges that the recent studies are of little concern.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions about male fertility, and recent studies are far from eclipsing the well-established reproductive limitations of women. But these recent studies might serve as the start of a reproductive wakeup call for men.

For those who do delay fatherhood, Zini says living a healthy lifestyle can help to prevent the decline of sperm production and testicular function, which invariably diminish with age. He recommends avoiding environmental toxins (including smoking) and excessive exposure to heat (such as saunas and whirlpools) and certain occupational hazards (such as taxi driving, which requires sitting for prolonged periods of time).

previous page 1 2 3 next page New studies warn that it isn't just women who become less fertile as they age
Sarah Treleaven , The Ottawa Citizen
Fisch says that having a baby over the age of 35 -- male or female -- still increases the odds of infertility and genetic disorders. His advice? "If my son or daughter was to ask, I'd tell them to have kids early -- and that's before 30."

McBride admits that the ticking of his clock occasionally becomes audible. "As I get more and more infirm," he jokes, pointing to his new orthotic, "I worry about not being able to run around with my kids."

Parkes feels it too, and anticipates that the ticking will get louder in the next few years. "It helps that my circle of friends doesn't seem to be as into having kids, but who knows how much longer that will last? If I get to 35 without a kid, I think I'll throw all my mating standards away and just try to impregnate anything."

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Friday, November 21, 2008

In our study, the development of type 1 diabetes mellitus was associated with higher paternal age

1: Eur J Pediatr. 1999 May;158(5):362-6. Links
Risk factors for type I diabetes mellitus in children in Austria.Rami B, Schneider U, Imhof A, Waldhör T, Schober E.
University Children's Hospital Vienna, Austria.

The aim of this study was to investigate environmental risk factors in the development of type 1 diabetes mellitus in a population-based case-control study. Parents of all patients with manifestation of type 1 diabetes between 1989 and 1994 in Vienna were asked to complete a questionnaire (n = 114). Control children (n = 495), matched for age and sex, were randomly recruited from all schools in Vienna. Fathers of diabetic children were significantly older at the time their children were born than fathers of control children (P = 0.015). Children with diabetes were more likely to be second- or third-born children (P<0.05) and fewer went to kindergarten than the control group children (P = 0.007). No significant difference in duration of gestation, percentage of delivery by caesarean section, birth weight or length was found. Neonatal jaundice was more often observed in the patient group (P = 0.038). Breast feeding was reported by 82.7% of mothers of diabetic children and by 81% of mothers of control children, and the duration of breast feeding was longer in patients than in controls (n.s.). CONCLUSION: In our study, the development of type 1 diabetes mellitus was associated with higher paternal age and neonatal jaundice. No correlation could be found with dietary intake of cow's milk products in early infancy, vaccination and other environmental factors.

PMID: 10333115 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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Alzheimer's link to older fathers

Alzheimer's link to older fathers
Independent, The (London), Sep 17, 1998 by Charles Arthur Technology Editor
E-mail Print Link CHILDREN BORN to fathers who are approaching middle age have a higher than average risk of developing Alzheimer's disease in later life, a study suggests.

A retrospective investigation of 206 people who have the degenerative illness, but no history of it occurring in the family, revealed a statistically significant link with the age of their father when they were born.

Some genes are known to contibute to the chance of developing Alzheimer's, but the new study, carried out by Lars Bertram at the Technical University of Munich, suggests that simply having an older father - average age 35.7 - can be a risk factor even in the absence of those genes. For those where there was a family history of Alzheimer's, the average age of the father was 31.3 years.

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Lethal Job Interview Mistakes Though the sample is comparatively small, it is in line with the knowledge that ageing is associated with genetic damage to the sperm, which carry the father's genetic contribution to the child. That might eventually lead to Alzheimer's in the offspring. "There's an accumulation of environmental factors which somehow alter the genome of the father," Dr Bertram told New Scientist magazine.

Similar effects are already known to occur in women, where mothers over 35 have a far higher chance of giving birth to babies with Down's syndrome, which is caused by a genetic defect in the embryo. People with Down's syndrome are also more likely eventually to develop Alzheimer's.

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Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

How Old is Too Old to be a Father? Baby J Chronicles

Wednesday, November 19, 2008
How Old is Too Old to be a Father?

Ok, this is not really related to J, but since a few of our friends are considering parenthood... Paternal Age Effect: How Old is Too Old?
Labels: Parenthood


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

'I'm 41 and childless. Is it too late to become a father?

'I'm 41 and childless. Is it too late to become a father?'The latest science claims older dads can cause autism, schizophrenia and Down's Syndrome - and their fertility fades with age. Ian Tucker consults his biological clockComments (47)
Ian Tucker, Sunday November 16 2008 00.01 GMT The Observer, Sunday November 16 2008 Article history
Ian Tucker ponders fatherhood and fertility. Photograph: Ellis Parrinder

Last night I ate a large bowl of beetroot from my garden. This morning my urine is the colour of rosé wine and I'm worried that my semen might have taken on a similar hue. The colour of my semen is a concern because someone will be studying it in a short while. I'm considering this while sitting in the top floor 'specimen room' of the London Fertility Centre on Harley Street. Later on, when I mention where I've been to friends and colleagues they seem really interested in the interior design details of a room set aside for masturbation. So if you're planning one, here's some decorating tips. The room is on the second floor and it has two notices on its door: one saying 'Quiet Please' (in case passers-by are inclined to cheer or clap, I guess) and a sliding sign with 'Vacant/Occupied' options - I've opted for 'occupied' although I'm not, so far. Inside, the room is about 6ft x 12ft and painted in various pale non-colours. It is equipped with an ensuite shower, light-green vinyl-covered daybed and a fudge-coloured bathroom suite (including bidet). There is a sash window - which isn't overlooked. The atmosphere is more Carry On than Casualty. On one side of the sink there is a small empty plastic beaker (with my name on it). On the other a DVD player, screen and a remote. I consider all the hands that have touched the remote. Using one of the many tissues provided I pick it up and inspect it; it appears to be clean. The television doesn't show any of the normal channels.

I'm here because I'm concerned about my sperm. Not that they might be beetroot coloured, but rather that they might not be fit for purpose. That they might not be as athletic, plentiful and perfectly formed as they need to be. I'm 41 and childless, and although I'm not involved in a 'trying-for-a-baby'-type scenario I've been reading the papers and the news for fortysomething men and their sperm isn't great.

'Scientists warn that biological clock affects male fertility' warned the Guardian in July - well, scientists are always saying stuff aren't they? 'Risk of miscarriage soars once the father reaches 35' (Daily Mail) - that sounds worrying. 'Blokes going infertile aged 35' (Sun). Must have sex, pronto! The papers were all reporting in their own particular ways on the research of Dr Stephanie Belloc from the Eylau Centre for Assisted Reproduction in Paris. Dr Belloc had studied the records of 12,000 couples who visited her clinic and separated out the influence of the mother's and father's ages on the chances of conception and miscarriage.

Belloc and her team found that women whose partners were 35 or older had more miscarriages than those who were with younger men, regardless of their own age. The risk of miscarriage was on average 16.7 per cent when the men were aged 30-34, but it doubled to 33 per cent in men over 40. Moreover, her research showed that men's ages also affected pregnancy rates, which were lower in the over-40s. As the Mirror summed it up, 'Over-35? You're a dad loss.'

I can remember ridiculing my own father for being 40, so how did I end up childless at 41? To start with I went to university and became middle-class. It seems only people from council estates and people who own estates have kids young these days. The middle classes are too busy in their twenties establishing careers, climbing the property ladder and going on snowboarding holidays.

Although lack of one doesn't stop some people, I feel you need to be in a reasonably stable relationship before having kids - and I haven't been in one of those of late. But of late, many of my peers are reproducing, some are already on to their third. Even the ones who had drug problems are conceiving and, meanwhile, gay friends are cutting breeding deals with lesbians. I wonder if time is running out.

It's an easy thought to have because I can't act on it, but sometimes I think I should have had some children in my twenties. I had more energy and didn't have many material comforts to give up or much of a lifestyle to compromise. I'd be packing them off to university around now, thumbing sports car brochures and thinking about buying a peach farm in Spain. Frankly, I can't remember that much of my twenties, so maybe it would have put this decade of void to good use. I don't recall any of my peers having kids; maybe it was a hangover from the Aids era - people seemed pretty conscientious about birth control, there were no 'accidents'. So now, at 41, I wonder if I've skipped the whole kids thing.

I seem to be developing the hobbies and pastimes of a senior citizen - golf, growing beetroot, buffing my classic car. But the reality is I've got 19 years until I qualify for my bus pass - which is just enough time to raise at least one human being. So should I be worried about or believe in the 'male biological clock'?

Back in 2001, Professor Dolores Malaspina, of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, concluded that men aged 50 or over are three times more likely to father a child with schizophrenia compared with men of 25 or under. Four years later, epidemiologist Jorn Olsen at the University of California, Los Angeles, found a fourfold rise in Down's syndrome among babies born to men aged 50 and older. And in 2006 scientists from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College, London and Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York found that children born to fathers aged 40 and over were nearly six times more likely to suffer from autism than those with a father under 30. Meanwhile, other researchers have suggested patterns between older fathers and increased chances of bipolar disorder, dwarfism and Apert syndrome - whose unlucky sufferers have a malformed skull and webbed hands and feet, among other disfigurements. A report in 2006 even suggested 'a modest effect of advanced paternal age on the Apgar score'. And after finding out what an Apgar score is I now know this to be less than good. The evidence appeared to be stacking up.

Yet are these findings as scary as they sound? Dr Belloc's sample was made up entirely of couples presenting for infertility treatment. 'It is not evident that we can extrapolate these conclusions to a fertile population,' she tells me. And many of the incidences in the other studies are minute; so a fivefold increase is still only a five-times-minute chance of some disorder or other. Moreover, these studies only show patterns, rather than direct causal links - finding a direct link would probably require examining DNA at a detail beyond most researchers' budgets or ability. Some commentators have speculated that if a man first becomes a father in his forties or fifties that may indicate he has had trouble forming relationships earlier in his life, which may mean in a mild, undiagnosed kind of way he's a carrier of problems like bipolar disorder or autism which have a genetic element - so his paternal age is irrelevant to the outcome.

Which isn't exactly comforting, but it suggests the 'male biological clock' doesn't tick as loudly as the headlines suggest. For Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at Sheffield University, the clock is nothing more than ageing. As you grow older, you lose a bit of hair and experience the odd 'senior moment', so you shouldn't be surprised if your sperm isn't as sprightly as it used to be. 'In terms of numbers it's the same, but what tends to happen is that the sperm isn't as good.' If their biological clock is ticking, men are pretty deaf to it. The age of fatherhood is creeping up: the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that the average age of married fathers rose from 29.1 in 1971 to 34.1 in 2003 - getting close to the 35-year point where some of the problems are alleged to kick in. I ask Dr Pacey if this is a worrying trend. 'The problem is couples are waiting until they are older. To wait until the woman is approaching 40 is the wrong time to be starting, and that will be exasperated by any problem that he has due to ageing.' Dr Pacey's advice to me is not to hang about: 'You will be more successful having a child naturally at an earlier age; it will be cheaper for you and it will be much more fun than waiting until you're well into your forties, going to an infertility clinic and having it done artificially. What we're finding are lots of people attending infertility clinics in their forties who would have succeeded in getting pregnant at 25. Rather than waiting for technology to sort it out, if you are in a position to have children early, then go ahead and do it.'

What Dr Pacey and others are quick to point out is that there's definitely a female biological clock. Women are born with a finite number of eggs and at some point they will run out. According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), a woman is half as fertile at 35 as she is at 25, and half as fertile again at 40.

You might be thinking, 'Why is he bothering to spell that out, everyone knows that?' Well, before researching this piece I was only vaguely aware of those blunt facts, but, more surprisingly, when chatting to single and married thirtysomething childless women about this article they start saying things like: 'My gran had my mother at 45,' 'What about Madonna?' or, most biologically incorrect: 'I'm not ready yet.' They seemed about as informed as I was. 'With the Madonnas and all the rest who seem to have children quite naturally, no one mentions IVF or egg donors, and celebrity miscarriages don't make the pages of Heat,' says Dr Pacey. 'This silence reinforces the myth that these miracle births happen, when often there's a medical intervention.' And IVF isn't a safety net: according to the HFEA, IVF has only a 12 per cent success rate for a 40-year-old woman. And it will cost you: the NHS, on the advice of the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (Nice), doesn't fund IVF for women over 40 because of the low success rate. The average cost of a cycle is £4,000-£8,000. Is it chauvinistic to question the sense of delaying having kids for the sake of a career if you're going to spend most of the extra income on fertility treatment?

However it's not only career building that is nudging the maternal age up; those commitment-phobic, nappy-changing-averse partners make a contribution, too - people like me. One could argue that this male biological clock business is providing men with another excuse to avoid having kids - we move from 'I'm not ready yet' to 'It's too dangerous now' in the time it takes to power up a Nintendo Wii. Or maybe you could blame the introduction of Viagra - which has engendered the idea that men can stay virile forever, so why rush? - as most men think the difference between virility and fertility is latex thin. But if you're looking for something that's really obscuring the hands of the male biological clock, look to famous people. When it comes to fertility, biology tells us one thing, but celebrities tell us another: ie, no matter how superannuated you are, getting your girlfriend up the duff is child's play. Middle-aged famous fellas love a baby shower.

Dr Pacey isn't impressed: 'The John Humphrys thing does distort the picture. There'll be lots of men who will read this piece and say, "I was 50 and I had a child," and it's really difficult to argue against that because they do, but statistically you are less likely to succeed and more likely to have problems. For the individual who has been successful it will seem stupid that I'm saying that, but for every 50-year-old father there'll be 10 times more thinking, "I had a lot of problems."'

Even if you, your sperm and your wife from a younger generation manage to buck the stats, there are other non-bio reasons against fathering kids late. Most obviously you might die before they graduate - if you're 65 now, on average you'll die at 82 - although for how much longer you will be capable of having a kick-about, helping them with their homework or visiting the lavatory without their assistance isn't recorded. And while it's embarrassing to be mistaken occasionally for their grandfather, it's thoughtless not to meet your grandchildren.

Am I being too hard on the older dad? I call Charlie Lewis, professor of family and developmental psychology at Lancaster University. Should we give middle-aged men the snip? 'Some men claim to be better fathers when older, but I don't see this in the majority of men. I find them saying, "I'm clapped out, I've done my bit at work, I've provided a house and comfortable living, now let me vegetate." They think it's their right to sit in front of the telly and not take part in any interaction. It's almost autistic. Older fathers tend to do less of the stereotypical activities than younger fathers do, less childcare and less kicking footballs - for fear of snapping a tendon. They think, "I'm much too old for this."'

Surprisingly, Lewis is more relaxed about the dying thing. 'I don't want to put fathers down, but if you look at the majority of evidence on loss, it does point to losing a mother before 11 being more predictive of later social/psycho disorders than losing a father. These effects are most often caused by the child absorbing the surviving partner's grief. So if the mother can manage the grieving process, the predictable death of an older father needn't be a life-changing trauma.'

Dads dead or alive, we should be more concerned about the kids, says Lewis. 'You do get studies that say old dads feel closer to their kids, but I'm not aware that kids feel closer to their older fathers.'

I wonder if I would become one of these dead-beat, distant dads. I like to think not. I don't quite understand how

that could happen. What kind of an individual would tune into a Top Gear repeat rather than read to their child or even relieve them of a shitty nappy? Maybe I'm being naive. I talk to some dad friends.

Gary, 45, first became a father when he was 23, but then remarried and had three more children, the oldest of whom is five. Would he like to compare and contrast? 'Obviously becoming a father young was a bit of a shock, it made me grow up quickly. I'm not sure at that age if you're responsible enough to look after yourself let alone a little child.' So how is it second time around: does older dad mean better dad? 'When my second wife first wanted children I did have slight panic attacks, because I had this memory of it being a total whirlwind, but this time it's completely different, it doesn't seem half as stressful as when I was in my twenties.' Gary says this isn't just because he's been a parent before - 'No, it's mainly because I'm more grown-up, more patient, more financially settled. I'm far more chilled out this time around.' So you'd advise an older option? 'It's better to have children at a later date, but myself, I'm worried about getting older. First time round I was one of the youngest parents in the playground; now I'm one of the oldest. My youngest is 10 months, so I'll be at retirement or grandfather age in her late teens. You hope to be running around in the park, doing those things that children want you to do and provide as parents. Hopefully I'll be one of those who manages it, but I will have to wait and see.'

The energy issue: I've heard this raised before. People talk about the nuclear-like amounts of energy you need to bring up a child, but I suspect it's similar to the stamina needed to squire a girlfriend half your age. Because down-ageing your just-broody girlfriends each time they start describing a new frock as 'a bit maternity' is really the only alternative to producing offspring.

Jonathan, 49, had two sons when he was 23 and 27. He says the early months were 'terrifying', and both he and his girlfriend had to abandon their career plans: 'Our embryonic lives together as a couple were entirely transformed into a fully fledged proper adult relationship. And we didn't have much money - I even used to scavenge skips for firewood.' But for all the foraging the relatively small age difference means he's closer to his kids. 'We can go to the cinema together, appreciate some of the same music, go out for a beer, they call me by my first name.' He got divorced and, a couple of years ago, he remarried. He isn't keen to become a father again: 'I'm interested in the relationship with my wife rather than with anyone else. The relationship I have with my children is established, I like the marriage and lifestyle we have, and because of my previous experience I can see how that could be compromised.'

What is his advice for someone like me, thinking of becoming a father in my forties? 'I think, you're not going to get a lot of sleep. And by the time you're my age, when you take your kids to a restaurant they'll be running around banging their heads, stealing food, whereas I'll be discussing the amount of oak in the Sauvignon with mine. I'd think about that quite carefully.'

So that's what I should have done. Bred early. Guess there's no point in crying over spilled, er, milk.

The trouble with this when-to-procreate business is it's personal. Apologies, it's not much of an insight but everyone is different. They earn lots of money, earn not much money, like kids, don't like kids, have live-in help, are still looking for The One, are given a babies-or-else ultimatum by their partners, had a shit childhood themselves, don't feel the need to have babies to preserve their relationship, are worried they'll pass on a condition, feel they've established their career, don't want a career, haven't been to Patagonia yet - the list of caveats and factors that make it the 'right time' for someone is as long as the waiting list for a Doctor Who Dalek Electronic Voice Changer Helmet.

So, to borrow a phrase from a Dragon: 'Let me tell you where I am.' For me, I think 45 is the cut-off. For biological reasons - you can't donate sperm past 45 - there must be something in those scary reports. And financially, I'd like to retire on time, if indeed I'm lucky enough to still have a career by then. Which doesn't give me much time, I guess, to meet someone, fall in love, imagine being with this person for the foreseeable future - if that's not over-romantic, delusional, too-much-like-a-John-Cusack-movie. But I'm getting ahead of myself: maybe I'm firing blanks anyhow.

For the 20-minute wait while my sperm is being tested, I chat to Dr Magdy Asaad, clinical director, in his office about the problems with semen. Mine is being tested for volume, viscosity, concentration, mobility, morphology and antibodies.

Dr Asaad uses the gold standard WHO criteria which are surprisingly generous - only 50 per cent of your sperm needs to move, for instance, and you're allowed up to 80 per cent with an abnormal form, such as funny-shaped heads or two tails, 'because 20 per cent of 20m is considered enough, it's a lot of sperm,' Dr Asaad chuckles.

I'm curious: do anxious men often pop in on their own for a lunchtime sperm test, check everything is wriggling right? 'It's not common, but when men present on their own, it's normally a problem with their ability to have an erection or ejaculation.'

Well as you can tell I have no problems in that area, I say.

'But some men don't like to give a sample,' he continues. 'They find all kinds of excuses: maybe they are worried it will not be good, or that it's an artificial thing, to press a button [is he talking about the remote control?]. I don't know how it was for you, I'm not asking. Sometimes a gentleman will have difficulty preparing manually.' Unbelievable.

The walls and desk of the doctor's office are smothered with framed photographs of beaming parents with their children - patients he's helped to fashion a bundle of joy for over the years. In your experience, I ask Dr Asaad, when is a good age for procreation? 'You're mature enough by your late twenties, early thirties, responsible enough, you probably have a job, a partner. I don't think it's a very serious problem waiting to 40-45, but beyond that you have to think about time with the child.'

With that, Dr Asaad prints off a piece of A4 containing all my sperm's vital statistics. 'It's a good sample,' he says, 'so you're all right.' I'll spare you the details.

On one hand this is a relief, but on the other it means I've no alibi, no excuses, I'm ready to breed. All I need now is a woman.

Paternity frights: ten bus-pass fathers
Julio Iglesias Sr, a dad at 89

Nobody could accuse the gynaecologist father of Julio and grandfather of Enrique, and who was head of a Madrid family-planning unit, of not taking his work home with him. After having two children with his first wife, he remarried and, at 89, when his wife was 40, produced


Autism Strikes 1 in 28 Somali Children in Minnesota

November 18, 2008
Autism Strikes 1 in 28 Somali Children in Minnesota
By Nancy Hokkanen

In Minnesota, an estimated 1 in 28 Somali children have autism spectrum disorders. In response many Somali families, advocacy groups and government agencies organized “A Forum on Developmental Delays and Autism in the Somali Community,” held in Minneapolis on Saturday, Nov. 15.

The forum’s primary objective was to raise awareness in the Somali community about developmental delays in children, with specific emphasis on autism, and to engage the community. Presentations were translated into Somali and English.

Shaikh Saad Musse stated in his introduction, “Our children are the foundation of our life.” Saeed Fahia of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota (CSCM) acknowledged that “we are all worried, and we would like to have a solution to this.”

Minnesota’s commissioner of health, Dr. Sanne Magnan, told Somali families that the state would listen to their concerns. The Minnesota Department of Health’s mission, she said, is to maintain the health of all Minnesotans.

Dr. Magnan acknowledged families’ concerns over vaccines and autism, but deflected them. “My job as a scientist is to bring you as many facts as possible,” she said. “On the CDC website, you’ll find this statement: ‘the weight of evidence indicates that vaccines are not associated with autism,’” she said. She warned that recently a Minnesota baby died of an infection because its parents decided not to immunize. “These are facts – you will have to make your own opinion about the facts,” she said.

After Dr. Magnan left for the day, facilitator Huda Farah discussed Somali family life. Sarah Thorson from MDH offered parents a developmental wheel tool for assessing age-appropriate milestones. Donna Ashton of Minneapolis Public Schools stressed that all agencies are invited to attend MPS meetings.

An overview of autism was given by Dr. Donald McClellan, a pediatrician from Children’s Hospital of Minnesota. He said that developmental milestones can be delayed by illness, injuries, poor nutrition, or problems in the “nurturing environment,” or home. Dr. McClellan said that autism involves genes – how genetics will program our brain to move from one stage to another. He declared that autism dates back to the 1500s, with descriptions in literature of people who probably had autism. “There is no single blood test, x-ray or scan that can make the diagnosis,” he said.

Data, theories and research are the province of MDH’s Judy Punyko, who is working on a Somali autism prevalence study based on observation of behaviors. “If there is an increase, we’ll get other research and physicians to help Somali families,” she said. The study report may come out in March 2009. According to Punyko, the U.S. federal government, academic institutions and the Mayo clinic are “the best people to figure out what the causes of autism are.”

Next came a question and answer session; questions were submitted on notecards handed out to select members of the audience by Patricia Segal Freeman, a communications coordinator with MDH. The panel was asked, is autism contagious? The panel said no.

Nurse practitioner Janet Mims was asked how to help children who have trouble sleeping. Her advice was to get them into a structured routine. After further non-biomedical discussion, a panel member mentioned the word melatonin without explanation, then suggested prescription medications.

After lunch, longtime Somali pediatrician Dr. Ahmed Osman said that it is unfortunate if people make a link between immunizations and autism. “It is possible that a child may have this condition, who has not been immunized,” he said.

Adem Abdirahman’s professional responsibility is facilitating communication between parents and educators. He discussed screening and Early Childhood Special Education, saying that “We have two years to correct problems with the child.” Writer Anwar Mohamed discussed Somali culture and said that immigrants came to the U.S. “because God wanted us to be here, and conditions like autism come up.” He said that disabled people exist “for those who have legs to get a lesson from that person…. Whatever condition we have is a destiny.”

Kris Ehresmann of MDH’s immunization division manages several programs including refugee health and tuberculosis. She mentioned that she has a son on the autism spectrum. She also said that she was appointed to a 15-member panel that makes decisions on vaccinations for the U.S. – that is, the ACIP committee.

“Before vaccines, thousands of children died of diseases we can now prevent,” Ehresmann said. Now thousands of children participate in vaccine studies with their parents’ permission, she said.

“No one wants to see a child harmed by vaccines,” Ehresmann said. “Because they’re given to healthy adults and infants, the government wants to see that they’re safe. Safety standards are much higher than for drugs, like antibiotics approved via the FDA. Many studies are done before release, to make sure they’re safe.”

According to Ehresmann, dozens of studies of thousands of people in various countries have not shown a relationship between vaccines and autism. She stated that in 1999 the government began taking Thimerosal out of vaccines, and by 2002 none contained more than trace amounts. The only remaining one is the flu vaccine, but she said that Thimerosal-free flu vaccines are available. But since Thimerosal was removed, autism rates have climbed, she said.

Ehresmann said that parents should not delay childhood vaccinations. She said that because autism is diagnosed at the same time as vaccinations, “It’s easy to think one think is linked to the other – but it isn’t.”

Idil Abdallah has a son with autism. She said that it’s difficult to find help for autism issues, that as a mother you’ll feel angry, sorry and sad. “Donating a kidney for our son would be much easier than this condition,” she said. She encouraged parents to work past initial denial, have strong Muslim faith, and believe their children will get better. Her son overcame his inability to hold a pencil and resistance to handling wet things by receiving occupational therapy.

Abdallah’s voice became more spirited as she addressed her remarks to the many representatives of advocacy groups and government agencies. “All parents must be listened to, respected, and taken into account,” she said. At first her subsequent remarks were not translated into English until audience members spoke up. Abdallah said parents need to be listened to by their doctors, saying that parents have noted children’s regression after some shots like the MMR. “It is not helpful when you say no link… please do not disqualify mothers. When doctors say ‘no link,’ that may not be the answer.”

Before break Hodan Hassan received recognition for helping to organize the forum. (She was mentioned in investigative journalist David Kirby’s Nov. 14 article “Minneapolis and the Somali Riddle” on the Huffington Post.)

During the next Q&A session, someone asked about the effects of double immunization if a child was vaccinated first in Somalia and again in the U.S. “We have an immunization registry that helps track, to get just the shots that they need,” said Ehresmann. “If a child got double doses, it would be okay.”

A parent asked why schools are bringing autism to their attention, and not their children’s doctors. Ehresmann said it’s because schools screen large groups of children, and doctors see smaller groups of patients.

Someone asked, is Thimerosal the same as mercury? “Thimerosal contains one kind of mercury as part of its makeup,” Ehresmann said. “So yes, there is a small amount of mercury in vaccines…. it’s ETHYL mercury.” A few sentences later Ehresmann answered another question saying “but Thimerosal is not in vaccines anymore.”

Another question asked MDH to respond to a former head of the National Institutes of Health stating that some children can’t detoxify chemicals in vaccinations. The Age of Autism’s Anne Dachel stood up to fill in omitted details. “That’s only one person saying it,” said Ehresmann, adding that population studies have not found a link between vaccinations and autism.

[Another vaccine question by a non-Somali parent was put to the bottom of the pile and not answered. That question was: “How can you tell people that doubling up vaccinations (or overvaccinating) is perfectly ‘okay,’ when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services conceded in the Hannah Poling case, and the head of the CDC subsequently stated that they concur, that too many vaccines CAN cause autism in certain children?”]

Presentations were abbreviated as the forum wound down. Phil Sievers from the Minnesota Department of Education urged Somali parents to submit e-mail testimony to the Senate autism task force on which he serves. Sue Benolken from the Department of Human Services listed some available services. Zahra Omar from ARC talked about medical assistance for therapies, and psychologist Pat Pulice discussed services at Fraser, an autism treatment center.

Anne Harrington, a psychologist who spent 21 years with Minneapolis Public Schools, was the only non-Somali to greet the group with “salaam.” Harrington has an ASD son with Down syndrome, and testified to the importance of early interventions. She advised people who work with Somali families that “they prefer to be listened to, and to ask questions, rather than be given the answers.”

The final event was an all-too-brief parent panel that offered information and inspiration. One Somali mother credited fellow parent Idill Abdull with guiding her on getting therapies for her child, including biomedical treatments. She told other parents to call them for help.

Another Somali mother said that after her child got early intervention, he finally started talking. She told parents they must have “less talk and more action,” asking parents to involve all generations of the entire family in helping the children with autism to achieve their fullest potential

Abdulkadir Khalif had written an essay about his son, which he copied for others to read. He spoke both in Somali and English. “If autism has existed throughout history, it’s not what my child has,” he said. Khalif described how years ago people thought malaria came through the air (“mal-air” = “bad air.”) When at first people theorized that mosquitos transmitted malaria, the government ridiculed them.

Khalif mentioned kwashiorkor, a protein malnutrition described in the home country as “the disease the old baby gets when the new baby is born.” He also expressed concern that there are “certain things in the vaccines that can cause autism.” He wondered whether some children are allergic to chemicals in them, and asked whether there was a way to find out. (No one from MDH answered that question.)

The loudest applause of the day came after Khalif issued a call to action. “A lot of rich people have improved the lives of their children,” he said. He urged parents to work with insurance companies to get coverage for their children’s treatments.

Social worker Abdillahi Mohamed said that parents can reduce the stigma of autism by educating themselves about the condition, and looking for services and resources.

Facilitator Hassan Samantar closed the forum by saying “This is a baby step” to open up the dialogue on autism in the Somali community – a dialogue that will continue.


Nancy Hokkanen lives in Bloomington, Minnesota with her husband and 10-year-old son. She contributes to autism listservs and volunteers for Generation Rescue, A-CHAMP, and the Minnesota Natural Health Coalition.

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Thank you for the blow-by-blow, Nancy. The parents organizers and people from the community and those who showed up in support are to be commended. You highlighted some very moving details from this meeting, making me even more sick and furious over how the authorities are handling this tragedy in the Somali community. History will show that it was pretty much blatant corruption. Naturally, each individual official who attended and sang the party line does not think of themselves as corrupt. It's so easy not to read the opposing science which clearly shows the link between vaccines and developmental delays-- and then to say one "didn't know".

Of course the health authorites will take the reports from parents-- and then bury the information. I hope that the Somali community is doing their own poll-- taking histories of each case and logging the potential adverse events from vaccines. If a larger percentage of Somali children were receiving double vaccinations or more at once than the general population, as in Hannah Poling's case, it's a clue.

I hope someone mentioned to some of the parents that the restricted diet helps some children sleep. I hope someone sent the minutes from this meeting to Obama's staff.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Assisted Reproductive Technology Linked to Birth Defects

Assisted Reproductive Technology Linked to Birth Defects
But the chances of such problems are low, CDC study finds
Posted November 17, 2008

MONDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Compared to naturally conceived infants, those babies conceived with assisted reproductive technology (ART) are two to four times more likely to have certain types of heart defects, cleft lip and gastrointestinal defects.

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That's the conclusion of a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study released Monday

ART, which includes in-vitro fertilization, refers to any procedure that involves surgically removing eggs from a woman's womb, combining them with sperm in the laboratory, and returning them to the woman's body or donating them to another woman.

"Today, more than one percent of infants are conceived through ART, and this number may continue to increase. While the risk is low, it is still important for parents who are considering using ART to think about all of the potential risks and benefits of this technology," Jennita Reefhuis, an epidemiologist at the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said in an agency news release.

The researchers compared data from 281 ART-conceived births and 14,095 naturally conceived births. Among pregnancies resulting in a single birth, ART was associated with twice the risk of some types of heart defects, more than twice the risk of cleft lip with or without cleft palate, and more than four times the risk of certain kinds of gastrointestinal defects.

But the researchers noted the absolute risk of a birth defect remains low. For example, cleft lip with or without palate occurs in about one of every 950 births, which means the ART-related increase in risk would result in about one in 425 babies having this defect.

ART didn't significantly increase the risk of birth defects in multiple births. However, ART may have an indirect impact, because it increases the likelihood of twins, which is a risk factor for many types of birth defects. The researchers suggested further study is needed to determine ART-related risk for defects in pregnancies with multiple births.

The study, Assisted Reproductive Technology and Major Structural Birth Defects, United States, was published in the journal Human Reproduction.

ART has been used in the United States since 1981, and the number of infants born after ART doubled from 1996 through 2004. In 2002, almost 12 percent of U.S. women ages 15 to 44 reported using infertility services. In 2005, more than 134,000 ART procedures were performed in the United States, resulting in the birth of about 52,000 babies, the CDC said.

More information

The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more about infertility.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

David Kirby

Posted November 14, 2008 | 05:17 PM (EST)

Minneapolis and the Somali Autism Riddle

Tomorrow, a few hundred very concerned citizens of Minnesota will gather to discuss a baffling and heartbreaking riddle: Why is the reported rate of autism among children of Somali refugees so alarmingly high (now an estimated 1-in-28 schoolchildren)?
When I first heard about this phenomenon, which Somalis call the "Minnesota Disease," my reporter's instinct told me it could be a very big story; that a key piece of the puzzle that is autism might well lie within the bloodstreams of these poor children of the Twin Cities - whose families had already suffered through so much.
If it can be demonstrated that US-born children of Somali refugees are more prone to autism than the other kids of Minneapolis - or Somalia - then it shouldn't take too long to discover what it is about them (their genes) that clashed so terribly with the way they were conceived and raised (their environment).
It won't explain every case of autism, of course, but it might open new doors of understanding and knowledge that can be applied to combating autism worldwide.
The daylong conference on Saturday is a tribute to progressive public health and a responsive local government (plans include Somali translators, Somali food, breaks to allow time for Islamic prayer, and child care). The meeting is sponsored by a variety of Somali, autism and other community groups, as well as several State and City agencies, including the Minnesota Department of Health.
"The Somali community expressed a need for information on autism, and our duty is to respond to that, to provide as much information as possible, and in a culturally context," said state health department spokesman Doug Schultz. "The concern in the community is real, and if they have the perception that there is a high rate, then we need to talk about that."
But is there really a "high rate?" A written survey I conducted with some 25 refugee parents of autistic children certainly revealed their strong belief that there is - and nearly all of them blame the vaccine program of their adoptive country.
In August, the online newspaper MinnPost first reported that 12 percent of kindergarten and pre-school children with autism in Minneapolis speak Somali at home, and more than 17 percent of the kids in the early childhood autism program are Somali speaking.
The Minneapolis Star tribune published other staggering figures: Among Somali students in the district, 3.6 percent had autism - a rate of 360-per-10,000, (or 1 in 28). The paper said this was about twice as high as the already burgeoning district average of some 180-per-100,000 kids (or 1 in 56), and more than five times the national rate of 66-per-10,000 (1 in 150).
Virtually all of the children of Somali refugees were born in the United States, and they appear to be among the most severely affected children with autism in the district: Last year, one-in-four children in the preschool class for the most severe cases was Somali.
Reports of elevated autism rates among children of immigrants is nothing new. A small study this year showed that Swedish-born children of Somali immigrants to that country were far more likely to have autism than the general population, (Somalis there call autism the "Swedish Disease"), and another small study in 1995 found an autism rate of 15% among children in one Swedish town born to mothers from Uganda - 200 times more than the national average.
Higher than normal autism rates among children of immigrants have also been reported in Ireland, the UK and several cities in North America, especially Montreal.
Meanwhile, none of the refugees that I surveyed had ever heard of autism back in Somalia, where there isn't even a name for the disorder. In fact, no one had ever seen nor heard of a single child who displayed any of the common symptoms of autism -- though a few did report knowing kids with speech delay that eventually resolved itself.
Not everyone is convinced that there is a problem, however.
"These reports are interesting and need further review, but you don't just take something off the news as facts," cautioned Judy Punyko, an epidemiologist for the state department of health. "We need to obtain the actual data and analyze it, so I am not sure there is much of a story here at this point."
Punyko has assembled a team of experts to determine if the Somali autism rates are in fact higher than average in Minneapolis, and she was expected to release at least preliminary results at Saturday's meeting.
But on November 12, Dr. Punyko sent me an email saying she is not able to present any results yet, "only study aim, objectives, and progress to date. I am still in the process of gathering existing data and this is taking a lot more time than I had anticipated," she wrote. "These data are tough to work with."
The delay will not be welcome news to any of the Somali parents I spoke with. They know that, without proof that their children are being afflicted more than others, officials will not intervene to investigate.
One mother (who asked not to be identified due to the tremendous stigma of autism among Somalis), first approached state and city officials in April of 2007, beseeching them to look into the apparent problem. It wasn't until local reporters started snooping around, the mother said, that government stepped up to respond.
The parent refugee-activists even secured a teleconference meeting with health staffers in the DC office of Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman. They told the Somalis that, if the prevalence was shown to be higher in their community, they would urge the CDC and other Federal agencies to "look under every rock" to find out why - including environmental factors like mercury, thimerosal and vaccines.
Many Somali parents began to suspect vaccines as a possible cause on their own, and well before they encountered any American media or autism groups who could put the idea in their head.
In fact, one of the most obvious "environmental" differences between Minnesota and Somalia is mass vaccination (another is sunlight, but more on that later).
There are an estimated 15,000-40,000 Somalis living in Minnesota, which has the largest Somali population outside of East Africa. Most fled during or after the 1993 phase of the bloody Civil War in that country. Most spent years in often wretched refugee camps in Kenya and elsewhere, waiting for a chance to emigrate to Europe and North America.
Many got their chance in 2000, when the majority of Somalis arrived in Minneapolis, hoping to finally build a new life in peace and dignity.
Along the way, vaccines became an almost routine part of their life: They were given in the camps, they were given before leaving Africa, and they were given in the first year of arrival in the US (which requires a series of 10 vaccinations for all refugees, including women of child bearing age - many of those vaccines contain thimerosal).
Once they arrived in Minnesota, most refugees were welcomed by a progressive "Blue" state with a good public health infrastructure and a bureaucracy ready and willing to help. Refugees were given about a year or so of free medical and dental care, and special effort was made to ensure full compliance with the childhood vaccine schedule (though many mothers failed to keep well-baby visits, requiring lots of "catch up" vaccinations when they did bring their children in to the pediatrician).
Of the 25 refugee mothers who answered the questionnaire, most were vaccinated in refugee camps, and all but two were fully vaccinated after arriving in the US. About a third reported receiving vaccines while pregnant or shortly before becoming pregnant.
When asked what they thought was causing autism in their community, 22 respondents said that vaccines were at least partly to blame, while two were unsure, and only one said vaccines were uninvolved.
Many parents told me the same story of regression I have heard a thousand times before.
"He met all the normal milestones until he hit 18 months," lamented Abdulkadir Khalif, speaking of his three-year-old son with autism. "He was a beautiful baby, running around, saying a few words, until about the winter of 2006, right when he got his MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) shot. He got sick and we went to the hospital, and he stopped talking immediately around that time."
"Do I know it was the vaccines?" Khalif asks. "All I know is he stopped talking right around the time of those shots."
Neither Khalif nor his wife (who was given a thimerosal-containing flu shot while pregnant, even though the label instructed the doctor to administer the shot during pregnancy, "only when medically necessary"), had ever heard of autism until the day their son was diagnosed.
Khalif says, it is "not possible" that autism could be this common in Somalia. "I've been living with it on a daily basis, with my own child. And I lived in Somalia and Kenya for a long time. If it was this common, we would have had a name for it, and we don't. That tells me it does not exist."

Continued next post...

Parent ratings of interventions for Autism:

Parent ratings of interventions for Aspergers

Friday, November 14, 2008

I hope the University of Illinois at Chicago Looks At the Paternal Age

Public release date: 14-Nov-2008
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Contact: Sherri McGinnis González
University of Illinois at Chicago

UIC joins international research effort to study autism
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago are taking part in an international effort to gather DNA samples from 2,000 autism patients and their families over the next three years.

The initiative, called the Simons Simplex Collection, is the first coordinated effort to create a database of information about families with only one autistic child.

"This collection of DNA will allow researchers at UIC and at other centers to identify genetic factors that increase the risk of autism and to potentially develop interventional therapies and new drugs for the treatment of autism spectrum disorders," said Dr. Edwin Cook, professor of psychiatry, director of the UIC Autism Center of Excellence, and principal investigator of the study.

Autism is an often devastating and lifelong disorder that appears during the first three years of life. Children and adults with autism often have difficulty communicating and forming relationships. The variation of behaviors and level of functioning among people with autism differ greatly.

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about one of every 150 eight-year-old children is diagnosed with some form of autism spectrum disorder. Autism spectrum disorders occur in all populations and socioeconomic groups and are four times more likely to occur in boys than in girls.

Families eligible to participate in the study include those with only one child with an autism spectrum disorder, age four or older; one or more siblings without an autism spectrum disorder, age four or older; and unaffected biological parents who are willing to participate.

Eligible children with an autism spectrum disorder will receive a behavioral assessment and all family members will donate blood, a source of DNA. A small number of families with no siblings or siblings under the age of four may be eligible to participate in the study.

DNA gathered through the Simons Simplex Collection will be stored at a central repository.

Data gathered from the research will aid scientists from around the world who are searching for the causes of autism.

In addition to UIC, the Simons study is being conducted at Baylor University, Columbia University, Emory University, Harvard University, McGill University in Montreal, the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Michigan, the University of Missouri, the University of Washington, Vanderbilt University, Washington University, and Yale University.


For more information about participating in the study, contact Jackie Klaver at (312) 413-4512 or

UIC ranks among the nation's top 50 universities in federal research funding and is Chicago's largest university with 25,000 students, 12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state's major public medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with community, corporate, foundation and government partners in hundreds of programs to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around the world.

For more information about UIC, visit

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Is Autism Research Leading Away From Paternal Age?Millions for a Detour?

$3.6 Million Raised at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's 2008 Double Helix Medals Dinner
Cold Spring Harbor, NY th $3.6 million was raised for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) at its third annual Double Helix Medals Dinner, honoring James D. Watson and J. Craig Venter for Scientific Research, Sherry Lansing for Humanitarianism and Marilyn and James Simons for Corporate Leadership. The black-tie gala, hosted by veteran television personality Phil Donahue, was held November 6 at New York City's Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

( - Cold Spring Harbor, NY – $3.6 million was raised for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory ( CSHL ) at its third annual Double Helix Medals Dinner, honoring James D. Watson and J. Craig Venter for Scientific Research, Sherry Lansing for Humanitarianism and Marilyn and James Simons for Corporate Leadership. The black-tie gala, hosted by veteran television personality Phil Donahue, was held November 6 at New York City’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

“Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has long been recognized as a birthplace of molecular biology and among the world leaders in genetics research,” said Dr. Bruce Stillman, CSHL President. “The Double Helix Medals recognize individuals who have dedicated their lives to raising the awareness of the importance of genetics research for improving the health of people everywhere.” Inaugurated in 2006, the medal is named for the iconic “winding-staircase” structure of the DNA molecule, discovered by Dr. Watson along with Dr. Francis Crick in 1953. The study of DNA, which carries all of life's information, is central to biological research, and is at the heart of work at CSHL.

Drs. Watson and Venter received Double Helix Medals for making each of their individual genome sequences available for scientific use on the Internet and for promoting awareness of the public health advantages of “personalized genomes.” Dr. Watson is Chancellor Emeritus of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and won a Nobel Prize along with Francis Crick in 1962 for their description of the structure of DNA. Dr. Watson is credited for developing the modern vision for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Dr. Venter, who now runs the J. Craig Venter Institute, published in 2007 the first full DNA sequence from maternally and paternally inherited sets of chromosomes of a single person – himself. He has advocated the public release of individual genomes with the view that a growing database in which scientists can compare DNA profiles with health histories and traits will help them understand in greater detail the impact of genetics upon human health. Venter’s team, in addition to playing a critical role in the sequencing of the first-draft human “reference genome” in 2001, has published the sequences of more than 50 genomes, including those of the fruit fly, mouse and rat.

Double Helix awardee Sherry Lansing, one of the most powerful executives in Hollywood for almost 25 years, was the first woman to run a major film studio. Honored by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory for her humanitarian efforts, she is a noted fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, the American Red Cross and her own Sherry Lansing Foundation. She most recently helped spearhead “Stand Up to Cancer,” a nationally televised benefit that aired in September 2008.

Dr. Marilyn Simons and her husband, Dr. James Simons, who runs the private investment firm Renaissance Technologies LLC, are co-founders of the Simons Foundation, a charitable organization founded in 1994 to fund basic research and educational programs in mathematics and the physical and life sciences. They were honored this year by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory for corporate leadership. With $38 million committed so far, the Simons Foundation expects to provide $100 million in grants in 2009 to autism researchers at more than 30 institutions, including CSHL.

The funds raised at the gala will fortify and expand Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s groundbreaking research and education programs, laboratories and facilities, and further facilitate the development of innovative technologies to study genetics.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is a private, non-profit research and education institution at the forefront of research in cancer and molecular biology, neuroscience, plant genetics, and bioinformatics and genomics. Under the leadership of Bruce Stillman, Ph.D., President, more than 400 scientists conduct groundbreaking research to advance the understanding and ability to diagnose and treat cancers, autism, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other causes of human suffering.

For more information about the Double Helix Medals Dinner, visit


Will My Next Child Be Born With Autism?

Will My Next Child Be Born With Autism?
Although autism has become a fairly common disorder, there is still a lot that it not understood about it. One of the things that are the least clear is what causes autism. There has been a great deal of speculation about the reasons for its occurrence, but there has been little evidence to support most of these theories.

One of the most accepted ideas about the cause of autism is that certain individuals are genetically predisposed to it. However, that doesn’t mean that children who inherit the unknown gene will certainly be autistic. It is thought that many people have the gene, but the only ones who develop autism are those that are exposed to some sort of environmental catalyst. This could potentially explain why the numbers of autism sufferers have grown exponentially in recent years.

The idea of an autism gene is disheartening for parents of autistic children who would like to have more kids. They worry that because one child has autism, any other children they have will also be autistic. But this is not necessarily true.

Studies have shown that parents of an autistic child have a one in twenty chance of having another autistic child. In the general population, the chance of a child being autistic is one in 150. So while it does appear that there is an increased risk for siblings of autistics, they are not absolutely destined to be autistic themselves.

Studies have also indicated a possible correlation between certain traits in parents and relatives and an increased chance of autism in a child. These include autism-like characteristics such as impaired social and communication skills and emotional problems such as bipolar disorder.

Children who have certain other medical conditions are also more likely to end up with autism. These include fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, Tourette syndrome, and epilepsy. Another risk factor is advanced age of the child’s father. Children of men who are over 40 are about six times more likely to be autistic than those of men who are under 30.

While there are certain risk factors that have been discovered, it’s simply not possible to predict whether or not a child will be autistic. Some autistic children have all of the genetic factors associated with the disorder, but many children with no apparent risk factors are also autistic. And some kids with all of the risk factors do not develop autism.

The good news is that doctors are studying autism like never before, and they are getting closer to finding the answers every day. And once the cause is determined, we will be much closer to seeing a cure or means of prevention.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Older parents, epigenomics and psychiatric illness

Older parents, epigenomics and psychiatric illness

2008-11-11 — Dave Bath
Nature’s British Journal of Pharmacology has (for free!) an editorial that is getting my nose twitching, and pushes me to speed up a Balneus post that has been brewing for a while. The growing literature on the diseases of children caused by advanced parental age suggests that the societal pattern of people building their careers before having children needs to
be reviewed by social policy makers.
"Epigenetic biomarkers in psychiatric disorders" British Journal of Pharmacology (2008) 155, 795–796; doi:10.1038/bjp.2008.254; published online 23 June 2008 (also as PDF is yet another paper stressing the importance of epigenetics in pathogenesis, and introduces a new word, "epigenomics" that relates to testing and markers.
Basically, the older the person (male or female) when conceiving a child, the more likely something epigenetic has gone awry and will cause problems.
Another relatively recent paper highlighted the relationship between advanced parental age and schizophrenia: "Aberrant Epigenetic Regulation Could Explain the Relationship of Paternal Age to Schizophrenia" Schizophrenia Bulletin doi:10.1093/schbul/sbm093 (advance publication 2007-08-21) contains the following:
In 2001, Malaspina et al showed that the incidence of schizophrenia increased progressively with increasing paternal age, the risk being 2-fold and 3-fold for offspring of fathers aged 45–49 and 50 or more years, compared with those of fathers aged less than 25 years.
It’s not just schizophrenia: autism, cognitive and learning difficulties, longevity … the list gets longer every year.
It’s a far cry from what we were taught at uni in the seventies: that old ova stuck in meiosis for 40 years accumulated damage (leading to increased incidence of trisomy 21 or Down’s Syndrome), but because spermatogenesis was continuous, older males didn’t cause such problems.
This raises questions about how social policy affects societal health perhaps more serious than the "diabesity" epidemic, as obesity is more easily treated than something caused at the time of conception (even before).
The easy recommendation is for ladies: ignore the flattery and bank balances of older men!
For males, it’s worthwhile trying to settle down earlier, do the parenting bit with your career on hold.
For politicians, this means that education patterns and work/life balance policies need some attention - unless we want each generation of teenagers to be nuttier than than the previous one.
Someone in Canberra should be crunching the numbers between the census details on parental age and epidemiology, taking into account greater diagnostic capabilities across the years.
I’m much relieved that at 48, my grandson is approaching 2, not only because of this research, but because I’ve got just enough energy to keep up with him for a couple of days (I stay with my daughter and grandson every second weekend on average). I’d be much less fun for him if my joints were any creakier!
Posted in Biology and Health, Politics, Society.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Harry Fisch- His advice? "If my son or daughter was to ask, I'd tell them to have kids early -- and that's before 30."

Yo, dude, check your bio clock -- now
New studies warn that it isn't just women who become less fertile as they age
Sarah Treleaven , The Ottawa Citizen
Recently, I've had a lot of conversations about baby-making with my male friends.

"I worry that I might be too selfish to ever have children," said my friend Joe, 29, somewhat pensively over gin and cucumber cocktails. Ditto for Colin, who just broke up with a woman he loves because she wants to have kids in the next few years and, at 35, he just doesn't feel ready yet. Kids or no, they both feel like they have all the time in the world to decide.

I, on the other hand, just turned 30 and have been making a lot of jokes about needing an apartment with a second bedroom for my soon-to-be-frozen eggs.

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Font:****Lots of women wring their hands about having a baby. Not only do we have to worry about our plummeting fertility (which begins to tank in our mid-20s), but we also have to worry about job retention and advancement once those kids (come biology, adoption or surrogacy) eventually appear. And it's the physical limitations of the female ability to procreate that have placed such a heavy emphasis on the reproductive biological clock, shaping the way many women live, work and even date.

But evidence is increasingly emerging that men, too, have a reproductive biological clock -- and that it ticks much more loudly than most of us have thought. Even as stories occasionally emerge about septuagenarian and octogenarian men becoming proud papas -- author Saul Bellow, for example, fathered a child at 84 -- several recent studies are challenging the conventional wisdom that men have an invincible ability to procreate.

A French study released in July found that women's pregnancy rates drop and miscarriages increase when the mother is over 35 and the father is over 40. Another study suggests that a man's fertility begins to decrease as early as his 20s. Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory tested men between the ages of 22 and 80, and found that semen volume and sperm motility were both significantly compromised by aging.

Additionally, the increased odds for older fathers producing genetic abnormalities have been well documented, and studies have demonstrated that fathers over 40 are six times more likely to produce an autistic child than fathers under 30.

The numbers related to schizophrenia are similarly compelling. A study utilizing health databases in Jerusalem found that fathers over 40 were twice as likely to produce schizophrenic children as fathers who were under 25; for fathers over 50, the odds tripled when compared to fathers who were under 25.

Dr. Harry Fisch, director of the Male Reproductive Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and the author of The Male Biological Clock, says that he's been ringing the alarm bell for years.

"There's a female biological clock; we all agree on the decline in fertility, more genetic problems and a decline in estrogen.

"The same thing happens in men -- a little bit differently, but essentially the same," Fisch says. "Why is it important? Well, demographically more men and women are waiting until they're over 30 to have a baby."

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Increased Bipolar Risk Linked to Father's Age by Joan Arehart-Treichel

Psychiatr News November 7, 2008Volume 43, Number 21, page 18© 2008 American Psychiatric Association

Increased Bipolar Risk Linked to Father's AgeJoan Arehart-Treichel
Older men are more likely than younger men to father children with autism,
schizophrenia, or early-onset bipolar disorder.
Fathering a child later in life seems to increase its risk of having autism or schizophrenia, research has shown. And now it seems to increase a child's risk of having bipolar disorder as well, a new study suggests.
The study was headed by Emma Frans, a doctoral student in epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Results were published in the September Archives of General Psychiatry.
Sweden's Multigeneration Register, as well as Sweden's National Hospital Discharge Register, made this new investigation possible. The former, which has been in existence since 1947, gives demographic information about all people living in Sweden as well as about their parents. The latter, which has been in existence since 1973, lists all people living in Sweden who have been hospitalized for various conditions.
Using the hospital discharge register, the researchers identified more than 13,000 persons who had been hospitalized for bipolar disorder at least twice since 1973 when the hospital discharge register was started. Using the Multigeneration Register, the researchers picked out five healthy individuals who matched each of the 13,000 persons on gender and date of birth. In other words, some 13,000 persons with bipolar disorder served as subjects, and 67,000 other individuals served as controls.
The researchers then used the Multigeneration Register to determine the age of each subject's father and of each control's father at the time of the subject's or control's birth. Finally, the researchers used this data to determine whether there was any link between paternal age at the time of birth and an offspring's chances of having bipolar disorder.
A link was found. Even when some possibly confounding factors such as socioeconomic status, family history of mental disorders, or maternal age at time of birth were considered, the offspring of men aged 55 or older were significantly more likely—1.37 times more likely—to have bipolar disorder than were the offspring of men aged 20 to 24. And for early-onset bipolar disorder (defined as occurring before age 20), the impact of paternal age was even more pronounced: the offspring of men aged 50 or older were 2.63 times more likely to have bipolar disorder than were the offspring of men aged 20 to 24.

Thus, paternal age seems to be "an independent risk factor for bipolar disorder," Frans and her colleagues concluded in their study report. "Furthermore, our results indicate that the paternal age effect might be most evident in patients with an early onset of the disorder."
Why older men are more at risk of fathering children with bipolar disorder, or autism or schizophrenia, than younger men are is not known. However, Frans and her team suspect that it is genetic, especially since they found a strong link between older paternal age and early-onset bipolar disorder, which has shown greater heritability than bipolar disorder that occurs later in life.
Furthermore, Frans and her group speculated in their report, older men's genetic proneness to father children with bipolar disorder may be due to the fact that "spermatogonial cells replicate every 16th day, resulting in approximately 200 divisions by the age of 20 years and 660 divisions by the age of 40 years [and even more divisions as a man grows older. Thus] disorders associated with advancing paternal age could partially result from de novo mutations."
Women, in contrast, they explained, "are born with their full supply of eggs that have gone through only 23 replications, a number that does not change as they age. Therefore DNA copy errors should not increase in number with maternal age."
The study had no outside funding.
An abstract of "Advancing Paternal Age and Bipolar Disorder" is posted at <>.

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