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Sperm from marijuana smokers move too fast too early, impairing fertility, UB research shows

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Men who smoke marijuana frequently have significantly less seminal fluid, a lower total sperm count and their sperm behave abnormally, all of which may affect fertility adversely, a new study in reproductive physiology at the University at Buffalo has shown.

This study is the first to assess marijuana's effects on specific swimming behavior of sperm from marijuana smokers and to compare the results with sperm from men with confirmed fertility. Marijuana contains the cannabinoid drug THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is its primary psychoactive chemical, as well as other cannabinoids.

Results of the study were presented today (Oct. 13, 2003) at the annual meeting of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine in San Antonio.

"The bottom line is, the active ingredients in marijuana are doing something to sperm, and the numbers are in the direction toward infertility," said Lani J. Burkman, Ph.D., lead author on the study. Burkman is assistant professor of gynecology/obstetrics and urology and head of the Section on Andrology in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. UB's andrology laboratory also carries out sophisticated diagnosis for infertile couples.

"We don't know exactly what is happening to change sperm functioning," said Burkman, "but we think it is one of two things: THC may be causing improper timing of sperm function by direct stimulation, or it may be bypassing natural inhibition mechanisms. Whatever the cause, the sperm are swimming too fast too early." This aberrant pattern has been connected to infertility in other studies, she noted.

Burkman collaborated on earlier, published UB research that was the first to show that human sperm contains cannabinoid receptors, and that the naturally occurring cannabinoid, anandamide, which activates cannabinoid receptors in the brain and other organs, also activates receptors in sperm. This evidence indicated an important role in reproduction for natural c
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Contact: Lois Baker
ljbaker@buffalo.edu
716-645-5000 x1417
University at Buffalo
13-Oct-2003


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