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Researchers from the University of California, Irvine discovered that exposure to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) during the early stages of life could result in a reduction of ovarian follicles and matured eggs by almost 50% in adulthood.
The study’s findings, published in the Toxicological Sciences journal, suggest that women who use cannabis during adolescence may face future fertility issues. Dr. Ulrike Luderer, senior and corresponding author of the study and a professor of environmental and occupational health at the UCI Program in Public Health, emphasized the significance of the findings, per Medical X press.
With the increasing number of teenagers and young adults using cannabis, particularly with greater access to it, the consequences of early-life cannabis exposure on reproductive health in adulthood are critical. Therefore, it is crucial to disseminate this information widely, Luderer said.
To investigate whether THC has negative health consequences in adulthood, the research team utilized a mouse model. They administered THC to young mice over a two-week period and monitored its effects at various intervals after the injection.
The team discovered that the amount of healthy ovarian follicles decreased by nearly 50% in primordial follicles, which are crucial reproductive structures in the ovary that cannot be regenerated.
The researchers believe that the significant decrease in the number of ovarian follicles was due to a hastened activation of dormant follicles, followed by follicle death later in their development as a result of DNA damage.
These outcomes are likely facilitated by the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a signaling system that regulates numerous bodily processes in mammals, say researchers.
The study also showed that ovarian follicles contain proteins that are part of the ECS, namely cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1R) and type 2 (CB2R), which are triggered by THC and its active byproducts.
Co-author Daniele Piomelli, Ph.D., states: "Our findings provide unexpected new insights into the long-term impact of THC on reproductive function and aging, (...) Our hope is that our findings will motivate teenage girls to make better, more informed decisions about whether or not to ingest cannabis products."
Image Credits: Peter Pike by Pixabay and Dhemer Gonçalves by Pexels Edited By Benzinga