Marijuana reprograms sperm DNA

According to a US study published in the journal Epigenetics, consuming cannabis would alter the genetic profile of sperm.

Consuming cannabis could affect the sperm of the consumer. This study, published in the journal Epigenetics, suggests that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active molecule in cannabis, changes the way sperm genes express themselves, so-called epigenetics. THC would cause structural and regulatory changes in users’ sperm DNA, according to the study.

Researchers at Duke University in the United States suggest that men of childbearing age should consider the impact of THC on their sperm, let alone the children they conceive. The experiment was based on observation of rat sperm and a small panel of 24 men who were regular marijuana smokers (at least once a week in the previous six months) and non-smokers who have never smoked or who have less than ten times in their lifetime. Spermatozoa in the first group were compared to Spermatozoa  of the non-smokers in the last six months.

It was found that sperm genetic modification was more important in cannabis smokers as the concentration of THC in urine increased.

According to the study, THC appeared to target genes in two major cell pathways and alter DNA methylation (a process essential for normal development and used by cells to regulate gene expression). One of the ways is to help the body’s organs reach their maximum size. The other involves a large number of genes that regulate growth during the child’s development. It is already known that these two pathways can dysfunction in the presence of certain cancers.

Researchers do not yet know whether these DNA changes triggered by THC can be passed on to the children of cannabis users. While waiting for further work, they recommend to avoid using cannabis within six months before conception of a child.

“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,” says lead author Susan K. Murphy as reported by ScienceDaily.

“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 Scott Kollins, Ph.D., professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke and senior author of the study.

“In the absence of a larger definitive study, the best advice would be to assume that these changes will occur,” Susan Murphy advises. “We do not know if they will be permanent, I would say that as a precaution, avoid cannabis for at least six months before trying to conceive.”

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Shakes Gilles

Editor of The Talking Democrat. He enjoys bike riding, kayaking and playing soccer. On a slow weekend, you'll find him with a book by the lake.