New research suggests that cannabis actually causes changes to the sperm itself, which might have implications for the health of a potential baby. Scientists at Duke University compared the sperm of two groups of rats: those who had been given tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, and those who had not. Then they compared the sperm of 24 human men who smoked marijuana weekly versus a control group who used marijuana no more than 10 times in their life and not at all in the past half-year. In both cases —rats and humans — marijuana changed how genes work in sperm cells.
In both rats and humans, the cannabis affected many different genes involved in two different pathways. One is important for organs to reach full size, and one plays a role in cancer and suppressing tumors. This doesn’t mean that smoking cannabis will lead future children to be more vulnerable to cancer. This study pilot is intended to see if cannabis even has any effect of this kind of sperm. The same size is small, and they didn’t control for the concentration of THC the human recruits smoked. The scientists did, however, measure THC in the urine and noted that more THC in the urine correlated with more changes.
Scientists stress that future research needs to be done, and the Duke team is already working on follow-up studies. The study is not “intended to scare people. Our whole objective is to learn more about biology and what effects there might be.”
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