While legal access to marijuana is becoming more and more important in the US, more and more scientists are studying the effects of its drug tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in adolescents, adults and pregnant women.
New research from Duke Health suggests men in their country In childbearing years, consideration should also be given to how THC might affect semen, and possibly the children, who may affect them during the time they take the drug.
Similar to previous studies showing that tobacco smoke, pesticides, flame retardants and even obesity are present Herzog research has shown that THC also affects epigenetics and triggers structural and regulatory changes in sperm DNA from users.
Experiments in rats and a study of 24 men have shown that THC targets genes in two major cellular pathways and alters DNA methylation, a process essential for normal development.
Researchers do not yet know if the THC-induced DNA changes will be passed on to the users' children's effects that might have. Their results will be published online on December 1
"What we found is that the effects of cannabis use on men and their reproductive health are not completely zero, as there is something about cannabis use that influences the genetic profile of sperm," said Drs. Scott Kollins, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke and lead author of the study.
"We do not yet know what that means, but the fact that more and more young men of childbearing age have legal access to cannabis is something we should think about," said Kollins.
National research has shown that the perceived risk of regular use of marijuana is steadily decreasing. Combined with the demand and the wide availability of marijuana, which has been specially bred for a higher THC content, this study is particularly timely, says Kollins.
The study defined regular users as those who had smoked marijuana at least once a week for the previous six months. Her sperm has been compared to those who have not used marijuana in the last six months, and no more than 10 times in her life.
The higher the THC concentration in men's urine, the more pronounced were the genetic changes in their sperm, the authors found.
THC seemed to affect hundreds of different genes in rats and humans, but many genes had something in common – they were associated with two of the same major cell lane, said lead author Susan K. Murphy, associate professor and head of the Department of Obstetrics and Reproductive Science Gynecology at Duke.
One of the ways is to help body organs reach their full size. the other involves a large number of genes that regulate growth during development. Both ways can be dysregulated in some cancers.
"What that means to the developing child, we simply do not know," said Murphy. It is not known if THC-affected sperm could be healthy enough to even fertilize an egg and develop into an embryo.
The study was a starting point for the epigenetic effects of THC on sperm and is limited by the relatively limited factors A small number of men who were involved in the process, Murphy said. Men's outcomes could also be influenced by other factors that affect their health, such as diet, sleep, alcohol intake and other lifestyle habits.
The Duke team plans to continue its research with larger groups. They intend to investigate whether changes in sperm are reversed when men stop using marijuana. They also hope to test the umbilical cord blood of babies born from fathers with THC-modified sperm to determine which epigenetic changes are being transmitted to the child.
"We know that cannabis use affects the virus has regulatory mechanisms in the DNA of sperm, but we do not know if they can be transmitted to the next generation," said Murphy.
"As there is no larger, definitive study, the best advice would be to assume that these changes will be there," Murphy said. "We do not know if they will be permanent. I would say as a precaution that you should stop using cannabis for at least six months before trying to get pregnant. "
Along with Kollins and Murphy, the authors include Nilda Itchon-Ramos, Zachary Visco, Zhiqing Huang, Carole Grenier, Rose Scrap, Kelly Acharya, Marie-Helene Boudreau, Thomas M. Price, Douglas J. Raburn, David L. Corcoran, Joseph L. Lucas, John T. Mitchell, F Joseph McClernon, Marty Cauley, Brandon J. Hall and Edward D. Levin.
The research was supported by a scholarship from the John Templeton Foundation.