- Epigenetic change is a natural occurrence that can also be influenced by several factors including age, the environment or lifestyle, in this case, the use of marijuana, and disease state such as cancer.
Kenya. Use of cannabis by men of child-bearing age significantly alters their sperm and affects fertility, a new study has shown, re-igniting the age-old debate on the effects of the plant.
The study conducted by Duke University Medical Centre revealed that use of bhang by men causes potential risk to their future children as the active ingredient of the drug, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), causes sperm to change.
“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.
According to WhatisEpigenetics.com, “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.”
Epigenetic change is a natural occurrence that can also be influenced by several factors including age, the environment or lifestyle, in this case, the use of marijuana, and disease state such as cancer. Experiments in rats and a study with 24 men found that THC appears to target genes in two major cellular pathways and alters DNA methylation, a process essential to normal development.