Frequent smoking of pot is known to be harmful to sperm, but a new study suggests that a marijuana receptor might actually hold the key to new fertility treatments for men.
In the research, scientists showed that a cannabinoid receptor, called "CB2," helped regulate sperm production, which not only provided more evidence that marijuana could disrupt fertility in males, but it also suggested a therapeutic strategy for treating male infertility.
According to researcher Paola Grimaldi from the University of Rome Tor Vergata the possibility of improving male fertility was one of the main aims of the study, since infertility was a worldwide problem that affected up to 15 per cent of couples, in which male factors accounted for almost 20-70 per cent.
In their study, Grimaldi and colleagues treated three groups of mice with different agents for 14 to 21 days, with the first group treated for a specific activator of the CB2 receptor. The second group was treated with a specific inhibitor of the CB2 receptor, while the third group which received only a saline solution served as the control group.
The researchers found that the group treated with the CB2 activator showed an acceleration of spermatogenesis, while the group treated with the inhibitor showed a slower rate of the process.
According to commentators, this suggested that a tight balance of CB2 activation was required for the proper progression of spermatogenesis.
'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,' said Thoru Pederson, editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal.
The study has been published The FASEB Journal.