Critical need for clinicians to counsel couples on potential genetic load in offspring of older fathers

MANILA, Philippines, May 26, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — A growing trend of older fatherhood is potentially creating a global genetic disaster with devastating health consequences for offspring.

A major human reproductive health conference in Philippines will hear about growing evidence that paternal aging is associated with a profound increase in sperm DNA damage that can burden offspring with mutational influences, including schizophrenia, autism and childhood cancers.

Speaking at the Asia Pacific Initiative for Reproduction (ASPIRE) Congress 2024 in Manila tODAYIndian fertility specialist, Dr Ameet Patkisaid that sperm DNA damage in older men also contributes to an increased risk of pregnancy loss and a decrease in live births.

“It is imperative that clinicians counsel couples where the husband is aged 40 or over that there is an increased risk of adverse health outcomes in the offspring, and potentially for future generations,” said Dr Patki.

“Over the past 50 years there has been a significant increase in the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders in children and an eightfold increase in childhood cancers. It is reasonable to assume that advanced paternal age is a contributor to this worrying global trend .

“The average age of fathers is increasing, as is that of mothers as couples delay parenthood due to economic, social and lifestyle issues, and male sperm counts in many countries are falling at an accelerating rate.

“We know that sperm number, volume and motility decrease with age, but the focus should also be on genomic defects in sperm.”

Dr Patki, who is the President of the Indian Society for Assisted Reproduction (ISAR), said there had been large international studies on the effects of maternal aging on reproductive health, but research and clinical trials on paternal aging were few in comparison. .

“In many societies, infertility is perceived as a female issue and many men are unwilling to admit that they may be a contributor to adverse reproductive outcomes,” he said.

“However, the biological clock also ticks for men, especially in terms of sperm DNA fragmentation that occurs exponentially after the age of 40.

“Paternal aging is associated with a profound increase in sperm DNA damage, the occurrence of multiple epigenetic changes in the germ line, and a high mutational load in the offspring.

“The net result of such changes is an increase in the burden of disease carried by the male and female offspring of older men, including autism, attention deficit disorder and schizophrenia.

“The effects of men’s biological timing are completely different from maternal aging.

“Genetic counseling should be considered for couples with advanced paternal aging along with sperm DNA fragmentation testing, especially in cases of recurrent pregnancy loss.”

Dr Patki said treatment with antioxidants, such as vitamins E and C and CQ10, can improve sperm DNA integrity and improve sperm parameters in men over 40.

“Carefully designed clinical trials are now needed if we are to understand the therapeutic potential of this approach,” he explained.

Meanwhile, a key focus of the Counting Fertility initiative being advanced by ASPIRE at the Manila Congress is that starting a family at a younger age is medically desirable, while understanding and addressing social and economic barriers for couples seeking parenthood in their young reproductive years.

The ASPIRE Congress is being held at the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila. For more information, go to the Congress website

SOURCE Asia Pacific Reproduction Initiative

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