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Grandfathers & Telomeres

June 28, 2012

Men that sire children later in life may pass on an advantage to their grandchildren.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

An upside to late fatherhood.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Older fathers may pass on a surprising advantage – not just to their children, but to some grandchildren as well. These descendents tend to have longer telomeres, which are tips on the end of chromosomes that protect DNA. Earlier studies found that children of older fathers have longer telomeres – a trait that promotes longevity and good health. Northwestern University anthropologist Dan Eisenberg and his colleagues have taken that a step further.

DAN EISENBERG (Northwestern University):

We’ve shown that it’s not just the age of the father, but it looks like the age of the paternal grandfather as well.

HIRSHON:
As to why, Eisenberg says that most cells’ telomeres shorten with age, but those in sperm actually get longer. So older dads may endow their offspring with longer telomeres, which would pass to their sons’ children as well. But he notes that other genetic risks linked to late fatherhood may outweigh this benefit. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

Many men are having children later in life. (Jupiter Images)