Genetic Alterations in Father’s Sperm May Reveal Risk of Autism in Kids, Scientists Say

by Ernest Thomas
Genetic Alterations in Father’s Sperm May Reveal Risk of Autism in Kids, Scientists Say

Currently, there exists no medication to treat autism. Even more, it is challenging to completely understand the grounds of autism or ASD (autism spectrum disorder). Now it is possible to predict whether a child could face autism in the future. A new study reveals alterations in a father’s sperm could assist in the estimation. Notably, the so-called de novo mutations or genetic glitches can show up in a child’s DNA through issues with sperm production. Scientists have discovered that 15% of males with autistic kids had these disease-causing mutations in their sperm.

Before this, many studies have linked autism to the alterations in DNA that emerge voluntarily in sperm. Usually, the changes take place during the development of the germline, or in the fetus after the process of fertilization. A new study, published in journal Nature Medicine, could offer a new type of test helpful in detecting autism. A team of researchers from the University of California, San Diego, has led the clinical trial. It may result in a screening of a father’s sperm to identify their children’s likely risk of developing the disorder.

During the trial, the team has studied DNA from eight groups of fathers and kids. They have observed for symptoms of mosaicism that are genomic variations even present in cells of the same individual. When a cell splits, the process sometimes results in mutations or genetic flaws. Meanwhile, some can be harmful, but mostly the alterations are not that dangerous. The researchers have compared the transformations discovered in children to those present in their father’s sperm. The analysis has verified that the de novo mutations actually contribute towards autism. Authors of the study say, in the end, the genetic test could reveal mom-and-dad-to-be if their child has an elevated risk of autism. All in all, the process will help to understand the risk of having a diseased child.

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