Over the last decade, it was shown that the risk for many complex genetic diseases was also correlated with paternal age.
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March 23, 2006) — Scientists have linked paternal age to genetic diseases since the 1950s, and some have suggested an association between the age of the father and the risk for schizophrenia. In 2001, Dolores Malaspina, M.D., M.P.H., and her colleagues reported their research identifying a relationship between paternal age and the occurrence of schizophrenia. On behalf of Medscape* Jessica Gould interviewed Dr. Malaspina, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia University and Research Psychiatrist at New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City. Dr. Malaspina elaborates on her research and speaks about new directions in genetic research on schizophrenia. (NARSAD NOTE: Dr. Malaspina was a NARSAD 1993 and 1995 Young Investigator and a 2001 Independent Investigator.)Medscape: Tell me about your research on paternal age and schizophrenia.Dolores Malaspina: I have been compelled by the idea that schizophrenia is not a single disease. The consensus in the field is that schizophrenia is a syndrome, and a syndrome is a collection of different disorders. Yet there is still some controversy over whether or not there are variants of schizophrenia that might have separate causes and respond differently to various medications.Since beginning my research in the late 1980s, I have focused on this heterogeneity, and one way that I've done that is by examining aspects of the disease in people who come from densely affected families, where two or more relatives have schizophrenia, and comparing them with cases of schizophrenia that have no family history of any chronic psychosis.Now, in genetic research, it's known that for human genetic diseases, when a new case presents itself in a family, the mutation almost always arises during spermatogenesis. We have known for almost 100 years that the late born children in a family have more new genetic diseases. In the 1950s, a scientist named Penrose showed that only the age of the father predicts these genetic diseases. Over the last decade, it was shown that the risk for many complex genetic diseases was also correlated with paternal age. I thought that if schizophrenia cases with no family history were due to new genetic events, maybe they would also be correlated with the father's age.