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Advanced paternal age is associated with an increased risk of fathering children with genetic disorders and other adverse reproductive consequences. However, the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon remain largely unexplored. In this review, we focus on the impact of paternal age on de novo mutations that are an important contributor to genetic disease and can be studied both indirectly through large-scale sequencing studies and directly in the tissue in which they predominantly arise-the aging testis. We discuss the recent data that have helped establish the origins and frequency of de novo mutations, and highlight experimental evidence about the close link between new mutations, parental age, and genetic disease. We then focus on a small group of rare genetic conditions, the so-called "paternal age effect" disorders that show a strong association between paternal age and disease prevalence, and discuss the underlying mechanism ("selfish selection") and implications of this process in more detail. More broadly, understanding the causes and consequences of paternal age on genetic risk has important implications both for individual couples and for public health advice given that the average age of fatherhood is steadily increasing in many developed nations.

Original publication




Journal article


Fertil Steril

Publication Date





1001 - 1012


Paternal age effect, complex disorders, rare disorders, selfish selection, spermatogonial stem cells, Humans, Male, Aging, Mutation, Paternal Age, Testis