Does father's age affect a child's health?

, medical expert
Last reviewed: 30.05.2018

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22 April 2018, 09:00

World experts in the field of biology and medicine have for many years been trying to determine the relationship between the age of parents and the health of their children. However, attention is drawn mainly to the age of the mother at the time of the birth of the baby: after all, a woman should conceive, normally endure and give birth to a child, without giving him some of her illnesses that could accumulate over the years. Now scientists are interested in - is not the child's health broken if his father is not young? Does the age of the father play an important role at the moment of conception?
As it turned out, later paternity also affects the future health of the offspring. A number of studies have already been carried out that have confirmed that if a child is born to a man at an age, then the development of such psychic abnormalities as manic-depressive psychosis, autism, attention deficit disorder, suicidal tendencies, etc., significantly increases in the infant .
Professor Dan Eninger and his team, representing several German scientific and medical centers, have begun to study the relationship between the quality of children's health and the age of their fathers. The experiment was as follows. Specialists received offspring from male rodents of different ages: the youngest male was 4 months old, and the oldest was 21 months old. Female mothers were young - 4 months old, and all rodents represented a single genetic line. Born mice scientists evaluated by a number of parameters. Typical changes inside organs and tissues, disturbances in protein structures, etc. Were taken into account. All the cubs developed under equal conditions and were separated from their fathers-that is, they never communicated with them. Already on the 19th month of their life it was discovered: mice, born from "old men", began to show early signs of aging, and by the end their life was shorter by 2 months (which is enough for rodents). It turned out that the mice, whose fathers were younger, lived longer and grew older more slowly.
The aging process takes place simultaneously with the accumulation of mutations. It may well be that mutations from elderly males provoked rapid DNA mutations in offspring. But, what is remarkable, both in the first and in the second group of young, the mutational accumulation occurred at an equal rate.
However, the most obvious difference was found in the epigenetic direction. Scientists have pointed to methylation of DNA: methyl groups are attached to DNA, resulting in genes that are subject to these groups, changing the strength of their work. Such modifications exist long enough and change only with age. As scientists have found, in small hereditary rodents of different groups there were differences in the pattern of methyl DNA tags. Such modifications had much in common among older males and their young, with changes fixed specifically on genes responsible for the length of the life period and for the development of age-related diseases. Simply put, the old fathers, as it were, set up the genetic activity of their offspring for aging.
And yet, it is too early to draw conclusions. Scientists need to understand how the inheritance of molecular aging takes place. And experiments on rodents can not be compared with those processes that occur in the human body.
The study is described on pages pnas.org


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