Biomarkers Identified in Father’s Sperm May Be Linked to Autism Risk in Offspring

January 25, 2021

Study Finds Paternal Age Not a Factor in Newly Identified Biomarkers 

A new study from Washington State University has suggested that epigenetic biomarkers found in a father’s sperm may predict susceptibility of developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in his offspring. The study’s methodology involved recruiting 13 men who fathered children with ASD and 13 men whose children do not have the disorder. A genome analysis was used to compare sperm samples from both cohorts. The analysis revealed 805 specific areas of DNA methylation in the fathers who had children with autism. Later, 18 additional men were included in the study for a series of blind tests to determine if these biomarkers continued to be valid. The epigenetic patterns in the samples remained persistent, the sperm biomarkers were correctly identified with 90% accuracy when this larger group was included. The study’s authors suggest that advanced age and infertility issues were not associated with these biomarkers since the study’s subjects were similar in age and were fertile. The researchers acknowledge that their study included a small sample size therefore further investigations with more subjects are needed. Additionally, this study doesn’t address how a man may father one child with ASD but have other children without the disorder. However, the team is hopeful that their findings may work towards developing a diagnostic tool which could help parents assess the risk of ASD in their children.  They maintain that having advanced knowledge could allow doctors to monitor children at high-risk of developing ASD at early stages or even attempt to guide parents to avoid potential environmental triggers associated with the disorder. 

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