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New study finds cannabinoid signaling system regulates fertilization process

By maynard in News
Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 07:19:31 AM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)

A new study released recently, the results of which were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology in San Francisco, states that a critical signaling mechanism in the fertilization process binds to the same cell receptors which bind to THC, the primary ingredient in marijuana which causes intoxication.

Herbert Schuel, Ph.D., UB professor of anatomy and cell biology and lead author on the study, presented results of the research in which he collaborated with Lani Burkman, Ph.D., and Jack Lippes, M.D., of UB, and colleagues from the University of Connecticut, Eastern Virginia Medical School and University of California at Irvine.

The results of this study suggest an explanation as to why heavy marijuana smokers often show significant loss in fertility from overloading the cannabinoid receptors used in the natural signaling system.

"These findings suggest that defects in the cannabinoid receptor-signaling system could account for certain types of infertility," Schuel said. "A better understanding of these mechanisms might lead to the development of novel drugs useful in reproductive medicine. For heavy marijuana users, the study results raise the possibility they are jeopardizing fertility by overloading this signaling system."
According to the authors, anandamide, a cannabinoid, had previously been found to partly regulate the capacitation process, whereby sperm change their behavior after ejaculation, insemination, and bathing of certain secretions within the female vagina for some hours, which in some way facilitates fast and "hyperactivated swimming" toward an egg. At the point of contact with an egg, the sperm then secrete a digestive enzyme which breaks down the egg surface to complete fertilization; this is called an acrosome reaction. However, no one knew the exact process of how this unfolded.

"We know that sperm capacitation and fertilizing potential are tightly regulated within the female reproductive tract," Schuel said. "We also know that the cannabinoid receptor found in the human brain is expressed in the human testis, and that anandamide is produced in the testis and uterus of mammals. Within the uterus, anandamide regulates early development of the fertilized egg, and determines where the embryo will implant to initiate pregnancy. Cannabinoids also affect this process."
They have now discovered exactly what happens.
  • The natural anandamide (or cannabinoid) AM-356 actually inhibits the hyperactivated swimming response in sperm after a threshold level, but at the correct amount will stimulate the proper swimming response.
  • AM-356 inhibits sperm binding at the egg surface.
  • AM-356 and THC inhibit structural changes over the acrosome preventing fertilization.
"In addition, the increased load of cannabinoids in people who abuse marijuana could flood natural endocannabinoid-signal systems in reproductive organs and adversely impact fertility," Schuel said. "This possibility may explain observations made over the past 30-40 years that marijuana smoke drastically reduces sperm production in males."
So, it would appear that too large an amount of cannabinoid binding drugs within the reproductive tract, such as THC, could prevent sperm from moving toward their target, prevent sperm from binding on their target, and finally prevent sperm from burrowing into their target to complete fertilization. Please remember that since they've only studied the molecular processes by which these systems signal each other, and not the direct effects of marijuana on the human reproductive tract, that correlation does not mean causation so they could be wrong on this finding. However, I personally would tend to doubt it.

So, my only two questions are:

When do we get a male contraceptive based on cannabis?
Will it get you high? :-^


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If smoking pot reduces fertility:
o Glad I don't smoke dope! 26%
o Jesus, put out that joint! 3%
o What, and it's a contraceptive too!?!?!? 43%
o *cough* *cough* *cough* whoa man, have a bong hit... 16%
o I Abstain from this offensive poll. 8%

Votes: 89
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o critical signaling mechanism in the fertilization process binds to the same cell receptors which bind to THC
o Also by maynard

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New study finds cannabinoid signaling system regulates fertilization process | 24 comments (5 topical, 19 editorial, 0 hidden)
And this is bad how? (3.22 / 9) (#4)
by fluffy grue on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 12:12:20 AM EST

Pot stops potheads from breeding? Great! Less pothead offspring to pollute the world.

(Note: by 'pothead' I don't mean someone who smokes pot on an occasional, recreational basis, but those who do it as a way of life to the point of being unable to function outside their tokin' ring. See my node 'A watched pothead never toils' on Everything2.)
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

Not all potheads are alike... (5.00 / 3) (#24)
by Nick Ives on Fri Dec 15, 2000 at 08:03:38 AM EST

I would most definatly classify myself as a pothead. I go in for that whole 'get up, skin up' thing. Most serious potheads that I know are perfectly able to function outside of their tokin' ring, myself included, because we make sure that we always have a stash to tide us over, even if it is just a joints worth. Sometimes I can go for a couple of days without any weed, but only when times are hard and theres noone willing to share a j with me. Thats fairly rare though, as between my sister and our friend Z3b, we've always got a little something.

With all that said, I do want to take a little offense on behalf of potheads everywhere at your node on E2. For starters, those guys did sound like arseholes, having never met them for myself I cant really form an honest opinion about them though. I personally have to pay for all my drugs, be it booze, fags or weed. Sure I get some money off my mother & sis, but I give them money too. It all balances out in the end. Those guys dont sound so much like potheads as much as they sound like your average student. I have friends in various uni's round the UK and pretty much all students sound like those guys. If they were managing to get that consistantly stoned every night though, chances are they wernt used to weed or something. Its impossible for me to get wrecked these days, unless I do something like a quad bucket. Also, the fact that one of them bragged so much about the drugs that he did makes it sound like he totally wasnt past the 'drugs are cool' phase, which is something everyone goes through I think at some stage, some people less than others. I'm gonna go off on a tangent about this, bear with me for a sec.

Last weekend I did acid for the first time. I did it with a girl who was also tripping for the first time. It was a very eye opening experience, not only the trip itself but also the fact that we both reacted completly and utterly differently. I wont talk about the actual trip itself, I've tried to put it into words and its really not very interesting at all to anyone but myself, but I will talk about our reactions to the acid. Whilst I was content to just sit, look and think, she instead preferred to run around, talk non stop, go "oh how trippy" almost constantly and also on at least 3 occasions she complained that she wasnt getting lots of visual hallucinations. I personally had a very intense almost spiritual experience. I'm not saying that I'm somehow "better" or that shes somehow "worse" or any other elitist crap, it just seems to me, in retrospect, that she was looking for something "cool" to do when she did acid. There are lots of drugs and lots of reasons to do drugs, but doing any drug just because its "cool" is stupid.

I hope im making my point here. Your ex-roommate and his circle of friends sound like bored college students looking for the next cool thing to do. Smoking pot isnt cool at all, its just something I happen to do on a daily basis. Its about as cool as breakfast, taking a dump or powering on my computer. Having said that there are certain situations where smoking pot is cool. I regard skinning up out in a public place as a very cool thing to do because its an act of peaceful civil disobedience, but only because your standing up for civil rights, not because your wrapping a joint.

I hope that you have more reasons for not doing drugs than being turned off them by a bunch of tossers. I would reccomend that everyone tries weed at least once in their life, ditto acid. Thats only because I tried them and found them to be enjoyable, you might not like them and thats OK too. I encourage everyone to go out there and try new things and see things from the other side, but most importantly, dont get yourself killed whilst doing so. I know a couple of people who've almost gotten themselves killed whilst tripping (funnily enough they involved roads too) and those trips have been their last. I can imagine how tripping wouldnt be any fun after a near death experience.

Anyway, dont be so harsh to potheads. If weed makes people infertile then I suppose its kinda sad, but hey, acid makes people insane and heroin will kill you. They are all drugs that people do, its just important to get this information out to as many people as possible so that they can make an informed decision about wether or not they want to smoke pot. I know it doesnt really change my mind much at all.

[ Parent ]

Interesting (3.25 / 4) (#21)
by tzanger on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 09:42:55 AM EST

The results of this study suggest an explanation as to why heavy marijuana smokers often show significant loss in fertility from overloading the cannabinoid receptors used in the natural signaling system.

Funny, my wife and I conceived both kids after visiting Mary Jane. Now we're not heavy smokers by any means, but this is interesting.

So should pot smokers get the Darwin award? (3.20 / 5) (#22)
by hjones on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 08:34:39 PM EST

Adter all, they are eliminating themselves from the gene pool.
"Nietzsche is dead, but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown. And we -- we small-minded weaklings, we still have to vanquish his shadow too." - The Antinietzsche
Interesting (none / 0) (#23)
by aphrael on Thu Dec 14, 2000 at 10:44:10 PM EST

this also appears to answer another question --- why are there cannabinoid receptors in human cells in the first place?

New study finds cannabinoid signaling system regulates fertilization process | 24 comments (5 topical, 19 editorial, 0 hidden)
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