Cannabis might hold the key to new fertility treatments for men, according to new research.
Although the drug is often considered to do more harm than good, it could potentially be used to treat male infertility, scientists argue.
Researchers found exposure to the drug can affect DNA-bound proteins, sperm chromatin and have an impact on fertility, embryo development and offspring health.
Using mice, the researchers found that a cannabinoid receptor, called CB2, helps regulate the creation of sperm.
Not only does this provide more evidence cannabis can disrupt fertility in males, but it could provide new therapeutic treatment for male infertility, the team concludes.
Paola Grimaldi, a researcher from the School of Medicine at the University of Rome Tor Vergata in Italy, said: “The possibility to improve male fertility is one of the main focuses of this study, since infertility is a worldwide problem that affect up to 15 per cent of couples in which male factors account for almost 20-70 per cent.”
During the study, the researchers tested three groups of mice with different agents for 14 to 21 days.
The first group was treated with a specific activator of the CB2 receptor, the second group with a specific inhibitor of the CB2 receptor, while the third group received only a saline solution and served as the control group.
The group treated with the CB2 activator started to produce sperm faster, while the group treated with the inhibitor displayed a slower rate of the process.
This suggests that a tight balance of CB2 activation is required for the proper production of sperm.
Professor Thoru Pederson, from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the US, said: “That the normal beneficial effects of endogenous cannabinoids on spermatogenesis can be stimulated further by a chemical mimic, an agonist, is a potentially promising new idea for treating male infertility.”
The findings were published in The FASEB Journal.