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UC Davis study confirms link between advanced maternal age and autism
Date:2/8/2010

also was elevated. For example, among births to mothers under 25, children fathered by a man over 40 were twice as likely to develop autism as those whose father was between 25 and 29. Among mothers over 30, the increased risk associated with older fathers dissipated, the study found.

Because of the large study size, the researchers were able to show how risk for autism was affected by each parent's age by holding one parent's age constant and then comparing autism incidence across the age of the other parent across five-year increments. The subtle interaction of how each parent's age affects the risk of autism then became quantifiable even when it was reliant on the other parent's age. This methodology is more efficacious and requires fewer assumptions than the mathematical modeling used by earlier studies, the researchers said.

The researchers note that understanding the relationship between increased parental age and autism risk is critical to understanding its biological causes. Earlier studies have observed that advanced maternal age is a risk factor for a variety of other birth-related conditions, including infertility, early fetal loss, low birth-weight, chromosomal aberrations and congenital anomalies.

Irva Hertz-Picciotto, professor of public health sciences, a researcher at the UC Davis MIND Institute and the study's senior author, said the reason that having an older parent places a child at risk for autism is not known.

"We still need to figure out what it is about older parents that puts their children at greater risk for autism and other adverse outcomes, so that we can begin to design interventions," Hertz-Picciotto said.

One possible clue comes from a 2008 UC Davis study that found some mothers of children with autism had antibodies to fetal brain protein, while none of the mothers of typical children did. Advancing age has been associated with an increase in autoantibody production. Further work investig
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Contact: Phyllis Brown
phyllis.brown@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu
916-734-9023
University of California - Davis - Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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