According to a study from Duke Medical Center, cannabis may epigenitically mark a man’s sperm for autism.

The study, which had 24 men and 15 rats, highlights a potential transgenerational effect of marijuana exposure. The passing of a man’s sperm in which an autism-associated gene, DLGAP2, has accumulated extra epigenetic marks.

Led by Susan Murphy, PhD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, the scientists at Duke found significant hypomethylation at DLGAP2 in the sperm of men who used marijuana compared to controls. A similar observation was made in the sperm of rats exposed to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) compared to controls.

The study August 26 in the journal Epigenetics, in an article titled, “Cannabis use is associated with potentially heritable widespread changes in autism candidate gene DLGAP2 DNA methylation in sperm.”

“We successfully validated the differential methylation present in DLGAP2 for nine CpG sites located in intron seven using quantitative bisulphite pyrosequencing,” the authors wrote. “Adult male rats exposed to THC showed differential DNA methylation at Dlgap2 in sperm, as did the nucleus accumbens of rats whose fathers were exposed to THC prior to conception.”

“There’s a perception that marijuana is benign. More studies are needed to determine whether that is true.”

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