Gene Linked to Autism Appears to Change in Sperm of Marijuana Usersadmin
A small study, published in Epigenetics, claims to be the first to demonstrate an association between male cannabis use and “changes of a gene in sperm that has been implicated in autism,” senior author Susan Murphy, associate professor at Duke UniversitySchool of Medicine’s department of obstetrics & gynecology said.
Murphy and her colleagues conducted studies using human biologics and animal models to analyze differences between the sperm of male marijuana users compared to control groups.
“We identified significant hypomethylation at DLGAP2 in the sperm of men who used marijuana compared to controls, as well as in sperm of rats exposed to THC compared to controls,” lead study author and PhD student Rose Schrott said. “This hypomethylated state was also detected in the forebrain region of rats born to fathers exposed to THC, supporting the potential for intergenerational inheritance of an altered sperm DNA methylation pattern.”
Discs-Large Associated Protein 2, of DLGAP2, is a gene involved in transmitting neuron signals in the brain, and has been linked to autism, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
While the study’s sample size is exceptionally small – 24 men in total, half who used marijuana and half who did not – and factors such as diet, sleep, and exercise were not taken into account, this study will hopefully prompt further research.
“Given marijuana’s increasing prevalence of use in the US and the increasing numbers of states that have legalized its use, we need more studies to understand how this drug is affecting not only those who smoke it, but their unborn children,” Murphy says. “There’s a perception that marijuana is benign. More studies are needed to determine whether that is true.”
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