Grant Project Title: Identifying Epigenetic Changes in Spermatozoa of Sexually Mature Rhesus Macaques Following Chronic Marijuana Use
Grant Amount: $49,376
Significance: Cannabis is the most commonly used psychoactive drug among reproductive age males in the United States and worldwide. This high prevalence continues to rise and is extremely concerning as safety data is substantially lacking. Cannabis users are often unaware of the potential adverse impacts on their fertility, in part because healthcare providers lack evidence-based knowledge regarding the effects of cannabis use and are unable to advise patients. To overcome the limitations of prior studies, our group leveraged our translational rhesus macaque model of chronic THC consumption and the complementary expertise of our team, including Dr. Jason Hedges (Professor of Urology, Oregon Health & Science University - OHSU), Dr. Carol Hanna (Research Assistant Professor, Oregon National Primate Research Center -ONPRC), Dr. Lyndsey Shorey-Kendrick (Research Assistant Professor and Computational Biologist, ONPRC), and Dr. Jasper Bash (Clinical Fellow of Urology, UCLA). Our group was able to determine the impact of chronic delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) use on the sperm epigenome, including alterations in sperm DNA methylation at genes involved in nervous system development and autism spectrum disorder, which may impact long-term offspring outcomes. In addition, our group was able to determine that cessation of THC would result in partial reversal of these changes. This is the first study to establish the benefit of cannabis cessation on male fertility and insight to the minimum duration of abstinence from THC in rhesus macaques. These data can be translated directly to the clinical setting to guide healthcare providers in counseling male patients about how far in advance (minimum 4 months) they should discontinue THC use prior to trying to conceive.
“Given the rising prevalence of cannabis use, funding support from the ASRM Pilot and Exploratory Grant allowed our group to perform timely and much needed research focused on the impact of chronic THC use on male reproductive health and the sperm epigenome, and the potential benefits of THC cessation. The results from this study can be translated to the clinical setting to guide healthcare providers when counseling patients and couples regarding cannabis use prior to attempting to conceive." Jamie Lo, MD, MCRAssociate ProfessorDivision of Maternal Fetal Medicine | Department of OBGYNDepartment of UrologyDivision of Reproductive and Developmental Science | Oregon National Primate Research CenterCo-Director PMedIC Program | OHSU/Pacific Northwest National Laboratories