Posts Tagged ‘Marijuana’

Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.


Research about marijuana and fertility is limited but some previous studies suggested that it might harm semen quality. Smoking of any type is also known to be a risk factor for male infertility. So, men who have smoked cannabis are expected to have worse measures of fertility but the data from a recent study suggested the opposite. The finding contradicts all conventional knowledge on how weed affects sperm. This may be because previous research typically focused on men with drug abuse history but this present study simply asked men if they had smoked more than two joints in their life.


Analysis of 1,143 semen samples from 662 men collected between 2000 and 2017 at the Fertility Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital showed that those who had smoked weed at some point in their life had a mean sperm concentration of 62.7 million sperm per milliliter (mL) of ejaculate, while men who avoided marijuana entirely had mean concentrations of 45.4 million/mL. Added to this only 5% of weed smokers had sperm concentrations below the 15 million/mL threshold the World Health Organization has set for a “normal” sperm count, versus 12% of men who never smoked marijuana.


The study has some imperfections such as the participants are not necessarily representative of the general population. They were predominantly college educated men with a mean age of 36, and were all seeking treatment at a fertility center. Further research is needed to support the findings. Two possibilities are put forward by the researchers as the reason behind such data. The first is that low levels of marijuana could have a positive effect on the endocannabinoid system, the neurotransmitters in the nervous system that bind to cannabinoid receptors, and are known to regulate fertility. The second is that may be weed-smokers are just bigger risk takers and men with higher testosterone levels and thus have better sperm count.


But, there’s certainly no medical recommendation to smoke weed as a fertility treatment but this study, at least, suggests that a little marijuana doesn’t hurt and might benefit sperm production in some way. But, the researchers specified that their finding does not necessarily mean that smoking cannabis increases the chances of fatherhood.















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Highlighted Progress in Science – 2017

Reporter: Sudipta Saha, PhD


  1. Lungs can supply blood stem cells and also produce platelets: Lungs, known primarily for breathing, play a previously unrecognized role in blood production, with more than half of the platelets in a mouse’s circulation produced there. Furthermore, a previously unknown pool of blood stem cells has been identified that is capable of restoring blood production when bone marrow stem cells are depleted.


  1. A new drug for multiple sclerosis: A new multiple sclerosis (MS) drug, which grew out of the work of UCSF (University of California, San Francisco) neurologist was approved by the FDA. Ocrelizumab, the first drug to reflect current scientific understanding of MS, was approved to treat both relapsing-remitting MS and primary progressive MS.


  1. Marijuana legalized – research needed on therapeutic possibilities and negative effects: Recreational marijuana will be legal in California starting in January, and that has brought a renewed urgency to seek out more information on the drug’s health effects, both positive and negative. UCSF scientists recognize marijuana’s contradictory status: the drug has proven therapeutic uses, but it can also lead to tremendous public health problems.


  1. Source of autism discovered: In a finding that could help unlock the fundamental mysteries about how events early in brain development lead to autism, researchers traced how distinct sets of genetic defects in a single neuronal protein can lead to either epilepsy in infancy or to autism spectrum disorders in predictable ways.


  1. Protein found in diet responsible for inflammation in brain: Ketogenic diets, characterized by extreme low-carbohydrate, high-fat regimens are known to benefit people with epilepsy and other neurological illnesses by lowering inflammation in the brain. UCSF researchers discovered the previously undiscovered mechanism by which a low-carbohydrate diet reduces inflammation in the brain. Importantly, the team identified a pivotal protein that links the diet to inflammatory genes, which, if blocked, could mirror the anti-inflammatory effects of ketogenic diets.


  1. Learning and memory failure due to brain injury is now restorable by drug: In a finding that holds promise for treating people with traumatic brain injury, an experimental drug, ISRIB (integrated stress response inhibitor), completely reversed severe learning and memory impairments caused by traumatic brain injury in mice. The groundbreaking finding revealed that the drug fully restored the ability to learn and remember in the brain-injured mice even when the animals were initially treated as long as a month after injury.


  1. Regulatory T cells induce stem cells for promoting hair growth: In a finding that could impact baldness, researchers found that regulatory T cells, a type of immune cell generally associated with controlling inflammation, directly trigger stem cells in the skin to promote healthy hair growth. An experiment with mice revealed that without these immune cells as partners, stem cells cannot regenerate hair follicles, leading to baldness.


  1. More intake of good fat is also bad: Liberal consumption of good fat (monounsaturated fat) – found in olive oil and avocados – may lead to fatty liver disease, a risk factor for metabolic disorders like type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Eating the fat in combination with high starch content was found to cause the most severe fatty liver disease in mice.


  1. Chemical toxicity in almost every daily use products: Unregulated chemicals are increasingly prevalent in products people use every day, and that rise matches a concurrent rise in health conditions like cancers and childhood diseases, Thus, researcher in UCSF is working to understand the environment’s role – including exposure to chemicals – in health conditions.


  1. Cytomegalovirus found as common factor for diabetes and heart disease in young women: Cytomegalovirus is associated with risk factors for type 2 diabetes and heart disease in women younger than 50. Women of normal weight who were infected with the typically asymptomatic cytomegalovirus, or CMV, were more likely to have metabolic syndrome. Surprisingly, the reverse was found in those with extreme obesity.


























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Author: Dr Anayo Unachukwu, MBBS, LLM

Man is a net product of biology and society. His biology is pretty primordial and sluggish to changes hence he struggles with optimal adaptation to his dynamic environment. It is unsurprising that he is constantly behind the curve, given the epochal changes that are attendant to post modernism. Post modernism has largely informed a parallel discourse to that which exists within public and private institutions and bodies. This discourse has gained increased traction in the 20th and 21st century, given the haemorrhage of trust from professional relationships. As O’ Neil aptly puts it, ‘loss of trust’ is in short, a cliché of our times.[1]  The public outcry that attended this breach of trust has led to several layers of professional regulations, inspections of private and public institutions; and latterly the low level of tolerance of risk in more affluent societies. However Maynard opines that the attraction of trust as the determinant of human exchange is that it is potentially more cost-effective than the alternative.[2]

With the advent of information age, the already fragile relationship between the public on one hand and professional bodies and institutions on the other has seen further entropy and perturbation. This level of instability in the relationship was largely informed by marked reduction in information asymmetry that hitherto existed in professional relationships. The nature of these relationships is now undermined by concerns about their efficiency and the consequent need for external performance management.[3] Doctor/patient relationship is unique because of the element of information asymmetry.[4] Not anymore, the public believes that, given the reduced information asymmetry, doctors no longer know the best.  The net effect is a further distrust and uncertainty about the intentions of public and private bodies on matters affecting the greater good of the society.

It is within this backdrop that most scientific debates are conducted in the media. The sceptre of scepticism is brought to the fore by the public in navigating very complex debate. This is unsurprising, given that prehistoric man has always been adept in heuristic pursuits as rough and ready guides in making sense of it all when challenged with novel situation.

The debate on Cannabis (Marijuana)-is controversial, but unsurprising, given the heat rather than light it generates-has remained greatly polarising. Like wars, the first casualty is truth. Given Cannabis chequered history, an honest scientific discourse would hardly make the rounds due to the frontloaded emotions integral to the debate. Man being a product of sluggish biology and environment will recourse to heuristic generalisations where nuanced debate is called for.

Most clinicians in mental health-who have seen lives blighted by early childhood exposure to cannabis-are most appalled, given the way the debate on Cannabis is conducted.

Cannabis has over 70 different cannabinoid chemicals[5]. The most active being Δ 9-Tetrahydrocannabinol.This very particular chemical is largely responsible for most of the cognitive[6], emotional and psychomotor impairments associated with the use of the drug.

To further compound the discourse on Cannabis, is the difficulty in predicting with any reasonable degree of accuracy as regards to who will develop mental illness with early exposure to Cannabis in childhood. Given the paucity of scientific knowledge on this, scientific community could only resort to heuristic speculation based on epidemiological data-demographics. However, this issue is more complex, given that genetics and heredity are not in the habit of playing according to linear rules.

It is pertinent to note that a counterpoint to Δ 9-Tetrahydrocannabinol is another active chemical Cannabidiol (CBD) has anxiolytic[7] and possibly antipsychotic[8] properties. However, it is difficult to know the precise ratio of these two active ingredients in Cannabis couriered and consumed on the street.

I am not for a moment advocating that the drug war as we know it-started by Richard Nixon-is the way forward. There should be an honest debate across both opposing aisles on a practical and pragmatic solution to protect the vulnerable in our society. Was it not Ghandhi that said that you can’t shake hands with clenched fists?

[1] O’ Neil O. A question of Trust BBC Reith Lectures 2002. Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press, 2002.

[2] Maynard A., Bloor K. Trust and performance management in the medical marketplace; Journal of The Royal Society of Medicine vol. 96 November 2003.

[3]  Ibid.

[4] Not anymore, cf Scitovsky T. The benefits of asymmetry markets. J Econ Perspect 1990; 4 135-48. He notes that this is beneficial and it is a by-product of specialisation.

[5] Celia JA Morgan et al (2010). Cannabidiol Attenuates the Appetitive Effects of Δ 9-Tetrahydrocannabinol in Human Smoking Their Chosen Cannabis, Neuropsychopharmacology, 1879-1885.

[6] D’ Souza et al (2004). The psychomimetic effects of intravenous Δ 9-Tetrahydrocannabinol in healthy individuals: implication for psychosis. Neuropsychopharmacology 29: 1558-1572.

[7] Crippa JA et al (2004). Effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on regional cerebral blood flow, Neuropsychopharmacology 29: 417-429.

[8] Zaurdi AW et al (2006). Cannabidiol monotherapy for treatment-resistant schizophrenia. J Psychopharmacol 20: 683-686.


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