Monday, August 24, 2009

A Warning

Best before
Posted 12 hours ago
Do men have a best-before date when it comes to fathering kids? Ridiculous, most of us would answer. Just look at these celebrity old guys who became dads in their 50's, 60's, and beyond: Charlie Chaplin at 73; former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau at 72, Pablo Picasso at 68; Larry King at 65; Warren Beatty at 63; and Dave Letterman at 56.
"Women are born with a fixed number of oocytes," says Dr. Bernard Robaire, describing the female germ cells crucial to reproduction. The McGill University researcher who is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research or CIHR, says that men have no such limitation. Unlike women who, after the age of 35 find it more difficult to get pregnant, men produce 1,000 sperm a heartbeat - about 100 million sperm each day.
Theoretically speaking, then, men can go forth and multiply forever - or as long as their hearts beat. "The argument has always been that because men keep producing sperm that are fresh all the time it makes no difference whether you have sperm from an 85 year old man or a 35 year old man," says Robaire.
However, there's a growing body of research that suggests there may be limits to men's fertility, too. Recent studies have shown that men over the age of 40 have a lower chance of producing children than their younger counterparts. And they have an elevated risk of having children with autism, bipolar disease and schizophrenia.
In addition to concerns about mental illness, some studies have also shown that children born to older fathers score lower on intelligence tests. One study found that the incidence of down syndrome was related to sperm approximately 50% of the time.
"What we found was that if you put old males with young females the development of the embryos was different," says Robaire, explaining his work with lab rats. "We found a change in the weight of the embryos, but what was most striking was an increase in the post-natal death right after birth. Development was not normal.
"It seems that, as men age, the quality of their sperm changes," he explains. "The sperm's swimming ability changes, and the quality of its DNA decreases." So even though men continue to produce fresh sperm, the quality suffers because the sperm, which come from aging stem cells in the testes, accumulate oxidative damage over time.
"Fertility doesn't decline - only the quality of the sperm," he stresses. So is there a biological clock for men? "Yes, because a biological clock doesn't just refer to the number of sperm produced but also their quality." Robaire adds that there are many older men who produce children who are normal in every way. Nonetheless, studies show that the best age for perfect sperm is under 40.
With older men increasingly fathering children, the issue of sperm quality needs to be heard, says Robaire. "All our worries are about women having kids over the age of 35. But a man's sperm quality decreases with age and so therefore do the chances of his children being normal."
Maybe there should be screening for a 60 year old male's sperm, he says. "We have tests for women, but a 25 year-old woman married to a 60 year old wouldn't have an amniocentesis (a prenatal test that diagnoses chromosomal problems and birth defects.) We have to develop a good method of assessing the quality of the payload that is being delivered to the egg."

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Late bloomers spark intellectual debate
There are some benefits for men who head into parenthood later in life, according to psychologist Ross D. Park. They felt more self-confidence in their roles, are more likely to engage in caregiving and their kids report feeling more appreciated.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown became a father after the age of 50. He told media after the birth of his son John in 2003 that he was adapting well to sleepless nights -- joking "this time not because of the economy."
Become an older dad can also be the impetus for a few new tricks.
Former U.S. presidential candidate and Law & Order actor Fred Thompson, 67, who has two children under age five and said having two young children was " a large part" of why he ran for office.
But research also shows that children of older dad also score lower on intelligence tests during infancy and early childhood, according to a study done at the Queensland Brain Institute of the University of Queensland in Australia.
The study published in March found the older the father, the more likely the child was to score lower on the tests 00 except for one measure of motor skills.
"There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the sperm of older dads develops more mutations, that is, spelling mistakes in the DNA code," says researcher John McGrath.
Article ID# 1712847

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

old sperm may be contributing to increases in autism, schizophrenia and Alzheimer's.

The Pros and Cons of Being a Grandpa-Daddy
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Wednesday, August 19, 2009
filed under: pregnancy & baby logic
There are physical and emotional consequences to having kids at such a late stage of life.

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Michelle Golland, Psy.D.: With the wonderful news that Celine Dion, 41, is pregnant with her second child with her husband Rene, who is 67 years old, I wanted to share the pros and cons of being a Grandpa-Daddy. I choose that title because most of the men who are conceiving children beyond their 60s are most likely on their second wife and have older kids from their first marriage who have kids of their own as well.

There are physical and emotional consequences to having children at such a late stage of life. Because Celine Dion is a relatively young woman, she will be around to raise the children if anything were to happen to Rene. Let's be honest -- another positive is the fact that these children will not be concerned for their financial future in any way, which is usually a concern when becoming a parent at the age of 67. So when this child is 18, Rene will be 85.

Old sperm: Researchers are finding that it is not just our eggs that get old and cause all the problems, but old sperm may be contributing to increases in autism, schizophrenia and Alzheimer's.

Death/lost role model: Your children won't get to see you in your middle ages and you certainly won't see them in their 30's and having children. Your kids will most likely bury you.

Social stigma: You will be mistaken for the grandpa. Your kids' friends and their parents will assume that you are grandpa due to your age -- plain and simple. This will be embarrassing for your children -- and it will be a topic they will continue to explain their whole life.

Older dads are more involved in parenting, and are typically more nurturing, affectionate and gentle. Studies have shown that this may be caused by the drop in testosterone as men age.

Older dads are three times more likely to show equality in parenting. They change diapers, feed and bathe their children more often than younger dads.

Kids of older dads usually have higher self-esteem, more confidence, greater sense of security, better ability to handle stress and are more empathic.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Paternal age as a risk factor for schizophrenia: How important is it?

Schizophr Res. 2009 Aug 13. [Epub ahead of print]
Paternal age as a risk factor for schizophrenia: How important is it?
Torrey EF, Buka S, Cannon TD, Goldstein JM, Seidman LJ, Liu T, Hadley T, Rosso IM, Bearden C, Yolken RH.
The Stanley Medical Research Institute, 8401 Connecticut Ave., Suite 200, Chevy Chase, MD 20815, USA.

Advanced paternal age has been widely cited as a risk factor for schizophrenia among offspring and even claimed to account for one-quarter of all cases. We carried out a new study on 25,025 offspring from the Collaborative Perinatal Project (CPP), including 168 diagnosed with psychosis and 88 with narrowly defined schizophrenia. We also conducted a meta-analysis of this and nine other studies for which comparable age-cohort data were available. The mean paternal age for the CPP cases was slightly, but not significantly, higher than the matched controls (p=0.28). Meta-analyses including these new results were conducted to determine the relative risk associated with alternative definitions of advanced paternal age (35, 45 or 55years and older). These yielded pooled odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals of 1.28 (1.10, 1.48), 1.38 (0.95, 2.01) and 2.22 (1.46, 3.37), respectively. Thus, increased paternal age appears to be a risk factor for schizophrenia primarily among offspring of fathers ages 55 and over. In these 10 studies, such fathers accounted for only 0.6% of all births. Compared with other known risk factors for schizophrenia, advanced paternal age appears to be intermediate in magnitude. Advanced paternal age is also known to be a risk factor for some chromosomal and neoplastic diseases in the offspring where the cause is thought to be chromosomal aberrations and mutations of the aging germline. Similar mechanisms may account for the relationship between advanced paternal age and schizophrenia risk.