Tuesday, January 8, 2019


A new study from Duke University Medical Center, United States reveals that the exposure to cannabis or Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) by men in their child-bearing years alters the genetic profile of their sperm.

The study also found that many outside factors can affect sperm, ranging from tobacco smoke to pesticides, flame retardants to obesity, all of which can have epigenetic effects.

Epigenetics are inheritable traits that don’t affect DNA sequencing but typically stem from life experiences.

The study which examined 24 men discovered that THC appears to target genes in two major cellular pathways and alters DNA methylation, a process essential to normal development.

The researchers do not yet know whether users pass the DNA changes THC triggers to their children and what effects that could have.

“What we have found is that the effects of cannabis use on males and their reproductive health are not completely null, in that there’s something about cannabis use that affects the genetic profile in sperm,” said Dr Scott Kollins, professor in psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Duke University and senior author of the study funded by the John Templeton Foundation.

The research paper, “Cannabinoid exposure and altered DNA methylation in rat and human sperm,” published on December 19, studied the effects of THC in both humans and male rats with a view to find out the effect of the drug before conception took place. It was discovered that the chemical affects epigenetics, triggering structural and regulatory changes in the DNA of users’ sperm.

“Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene expression (active versus inactive genes) that do not involve changes to the underlying DNA sequence, a change in phenotype without a change in genotype, which in turn affects how cells read the genes.”

Susan Murphy, co-author of the study, advised men to steer clear of cannabis when trying to conceive.

She said: “We know that there are effects of cannabis use on the regulatory mechanisms in sperm DNA, but we don’t know whether they can be transmitted to the next generation.”

“In the absence of a larger, definitive study, the best advice would be to assume these changes are going to be there. We don’t know whether they are going to be permanent.

“I would say, as a precaution, stop using cannabis for at least six months before trying to conceive.”

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