Pubdate: 17 Dec 1998
Source: Reuters
Copyright: 1998 Reuters Limited.


WASHINGTON, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Scientists said Wednesday they had shown how
active ingredients in marijuana can affect fertility by damaging sperm

They said natural body compounds known as anandamides, which are similar to
compounds found in marijuana, may be important for helping sperm get to and
fertilize an egg. Cannabinoids in marijuana are similar enough to
anandamides to confuse the body and interfere with this, they said.

Herbert Schuel and colleagues at the University of Buffalo in New York said
human sperm contain receptors, a kind of chemical doorway, that the active
ingredients in cannabis can use.

"We've known for 30 years that very heavy marijuana smoking has a drastic
effect on sperm production within the testis, which can lead to higher
rates of infertility," Schuel said in a statement.

"Our new findings suggest that anandamides and THC in marijuana smoke may
also affect sperm functions required for fertilization in the female
reproductive tract."

Anandamides are neurotransmitters, or message-carrying chemicals. It has
been known for years that the cannabinoids, the active ingredients, in
marijuana are similar enough to anandamides to use the same chemical
doorways into brain cells.

Schuel's group found that sperm also carry receptors for anandamides, and
that cannabinoids will attach themselves to these receptors given a chance.

Reporting to a meeting of the American Society of Cell Biology in San
Francisco, Schuel's group said the cannabinoids interfered with the release
of enzymes the sperm need to penetrate an egg, with the regulation of sperm
swimming and with the binding of a sperm to the outside of an egg.

Evidently, he said, when people use marijuana heavily the body becomes
flooded with cannabinoids and normal functions that use the similar
anandamide chemicals are overwhelmed. 
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Checked-by: Mike Gogulski