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Men have biological clocks too
Father's age linked to risk of schizophrenia
By Bijal P. Trivedi

Older fathers are more likely to have children with schizophrenia, according to a new study. Men aged 45 to 49 were twice as likely as men younger than 25 years old to have children with schizophrenia. Men older than 50 tripled their risk.

"A man has a biological clock too. Men should be aware of the risks when they do their family planning," says Dolores Malaspina, of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, in New York. The study is published in the current issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

The association of schizophrenia with age of the father was determined from studying records of 89,722 children listed in The Jerusalem Perinatal Study, which documents births from 1964 to 1976 in a region of Jerusalem, and the age of both the parents. This data was combined with information from the national Israeli registry of psychiatric disease, which receives and records information on all psychiatric diagnoses.

The researchers believe that stem cells in the testicles accumulate mutations as men age. These stem cells have divided hundreds of times to produce sperm. At each division there is the possibility of introducing new mutations. The more mutations, the greater the likelihood that schizophrenia-associated genes could be affected.

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Malaspina, D. et al. Advancing paternal age and the risk of schizophrenia. Arch Gen Psychiatry 58, 361-367 (April 2000).

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