Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Disease-causing genetic mutations in sperm increase with men’s age


Scientists from the McKusick-Nathans Institute for Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins may have discovered why a rare genetic disease is more common in children born to older fathers. The disease, Apert syndrome, leads to webbed fingers and early fusion of the skull bones and must be corrected by surgery.

While Apert syndrome itself affects only 1 in 160,000 births, the scientists believe their findings could extend to many of the 20 or so other genetic conditions similarly linked to older fathers. The researchers are scheduled to present their findings Oct. 17 at the annual meeting of the American Society for Human Genetics in Baltimore.

"It makes sense that the mutations causing these diseases would occur more frequently in older men, and indeed that’s what we saw for Apert syndrome," says Ethylin Jabs, M.D., director of the Center for Craniofacial Development and Disorders at Johns Hopkins.

Importantly, disorders linked to advancing paternal age begin to increase rapidly at about the same time as maternal risks increase -- age 33 to 35. Until now, the only evidence for paternal age effects has come from determining how many children with these diseases are born to fathers of various ages.

To obtain the first genetic explanation for these effects, the scientists studied sperm from about 60 men of various ages and looked for two genetic changes responsible for 99 percent of the cases of Apert syndrome. They found that men over 50 were, on average, three times as likely as men under 30 to have sperm with at least one of these changes. The mutations were not more common in blood samples as men aged.

The scientists say it’s likely that the number of cell divisions that go into making a sperm plays a large role in the link between Apert syndrome and paternal age, and represents a fundamental difference between how aging egg and sperm can impact the health of a child.

"In the men we studied, these mutations had not been inherited, but rather collected over time in the reservoir of primitive cells that become sperm," says first author Rivka Glaser, a graduate student in human genetics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Cells that mature into eggs are essentially frozen in time from puberty until the time the egg is signaled to develop. Because of the stage at which they are "frozen," the most likely error in an egg is to have an abnormal partitioning of chromosomes, producing an egg with an extra copy or a missing copy, Glaser says. For example, in Down syndrome, an extra copy of chromosome 21 is inherited from the mother.

Sperm, on the other hand, are continually produced throughout a male’s lifetime from a reservoir of primitive cells. These primitive cells, like other kinds of so-called stem cells, can either replicate themselves or take a step closer to becoming a sperm, a process called differentiation. All told, these cells divide every 21 days after puberty, and at each cell division the opportunity exists for an error in copying the DNA.

"Literally hundreds of millions of sperm are made in each batch, so in most cases there are still many normal sperm available," says Jabs, also a professor of pediatrics. Their study showed that "high levels" of mutations among men who had no children with Apert syndrome amounted to roughly 3 sperm with the mutation among 100,000 sperm.

If an error is made in any of the steps toward becoming a sperm, the only cells affected are the resulting sperm for that batch. However, if an error appears in a primitive cell as it replicates itself and the mistake isn’t fixed, the mutation will continue to be passed on to all of its progeny, including subsequent primitive cells and other batches of semen.

As men age, more of these primitive cells have collected mutations that cause Apert syndrome, leading to more sperm with the mutations in each batch of semen, the scientists suggest. The risk of having a child with Apert is about six times higher for a man age 52 than for someone who’s 27.

Authors on the study are Glaser, Jabs, and Rebecca Schulman, of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and Karl Broman, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Abstract # 1127 "Molecular evidence for the paternal age effect in sperm." R. Glaser, et al.

Joanna Downer | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht NIH scientists describe potential antibody treatment for multidrug-resistant K. pneumoniae
14.03.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

nachricht Researchers identify key step in viral replication
13.03.2018 | University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Development and Fast Analysis of 3D Printed HF Components

19.03.2018 | Trade Fair News

In monogamous species, a compatible partner is more important than an ornamented one

19.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Signaling Pathways to the Nucleus

19.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>