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Marijuana-Like Chemical Can Restore Sperm Function Lost To Tobacco Abuse

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Sean Tipton 504-670-5403 stipton@asrm-dc.org

Eleanor Nicoll 504-670-5404 enicoll@asrm-dc.org
Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A compound chemically similar to those found in marijuana can improve the ability of smokers' sperm to bind to eggs.

Researchers in Buffalo and Boston have previously shown that two-thirds of tobacco smokers' sperm showed a significant decline in the capacity to bind to an egg compared to that of non-smokers. They hypothesized that treating the smokers' sperm with a cannabinoid compound would improve sperm binding. Human sperm have chemical receptors that respond to both nicotine and cannabinoids- compounds like those found in marijuana.

The eight test subjects, all chronic tobacco smokers, had previously been tested against normal controls in an assay involving incubating their sperm with sections of non-viable donated human eggs. Four of the eight had normal sperm function and four showed reduced function. This Hemizona Assay was repeated, testing a subject's sperm washed in regular medium against the same subject's sperm washed in cannabinoid-containg medium.

After being washed in a low-concentration cannabinoid solution, sperm from smokers with reduced sperm function showed marked improvement. Sperm from the smokers with normal sperm function did not improve after washing in the low-concentration solution. However, a second series of experiments using a higher concentration of cannabinoid, showed improved sperm function in the smokers who had normal sperm function to start.

Craig Niederberger, MD, President of SMRU commented, "Numerous studies have shown that tobacco smoking is harmful to parents, and to their unborn and living children. It is important to note that in this study, sperm were washed with the active chemical in marijuana, as it is also known that smoking or taking marijuana in other ways harms a man's fertility. But the best way to improve a smoker's overall health, his fertility, and the health of his family is to help him quit smoking." P-402 Burkman et al, Fertility loss in the sperm of tobacco smokers may be reversed after washing with a cannabinoid agonist

Cell Phone Use Associated with Decline in Fertility
In an observational study, researchers from Cleveland, Mumbai, and New Orleans found that the number of hours in a day that a man uses his cell phone can affect all aspects of his sperm profile.

Three hundred and sixty-four men undergoing evaluation for infertility were classified into three groups according to their sperm count. Among the men in the group with a normal sperm count, those who did not use a cell phone at all had sperm counts averaging 86 million per milliliter, with 68% motility, and 40% normal forms. Among men in the normal count group who used a cell phone more than four hours a day, the averages were significantly lower: 66 million sperm per milliliter, 48% motility, and 21% normal forms.

The effect of cell phones on sperm parameters may be due to the electromagnetic radiation the devices emit or to the heat they generate. The researchers note that further studies will be necessary to identify the mechanism involved in the reduction of sperm quality due to cell phones. P-398 Agarwal et al, Relationship between cell phone use and human fertility: an observational study

You May Be Happier on Antidepressants, but Your Sperm Are Not
Medications to treat depression may have a negative, reversible effect on male fertility. Infertility patients at Cornell Medical Center were observed to have impaired sperm concentration and motility while taking antidepressant medication. The patients had normal physicals and no endocrine problems. When antidepressant use was stopped , the patients' semen parameters returned to normal values. O-31 Tanrikut and Schlegel, Antidepressant-associated changes in semen parameters

Gene Therapy Works to Improve Erectile Dysfunction Resulting from Diabetes (only in Rats for now)
More than 70% of diabetic men suffer from erectile dysfunction; treatments often involve lifestyle changes, but can require drugs or surgery. Researchers from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center have found that for diabetic rats, gene therapy can improve erectile dysfunction.

To show that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) gene therapy leads to improvement in erectile dysfunction, researchers prepared three groups of rats, a normal control group and two groups in which diabetes had been induced. After six weeks of confirmed hypoglycemia in the diabetic rats, one group received VEGF gene therapy and the other group did not. Nine weeks after induction of diabetes, researchers measured the rats' intercavernous pressure in response to intercavernous stimulation; that is, the rats were stimulated to have erections and the strength of the blood flow was gauged. Control rats exhibited normal erectile function while the untreated diabetic rats' erectile pressure was only half that of the controls. Rats that had received VEGF gene therapy had erectile strength in between the controls' and the untreated diabetic rats'. It was confirmed through DNA and protein expression analysis that the gene therapy had been effective in the treated rats.

Analysis of the cavernosal tissue from rats in the treated diabetic group showed an increased number of smooth muscle cells compared to the diabetic control group.

"This research may hold the key for diabetic men experiencing erectile dysfunction," remarked Peter Schlegel, MD, Vice-President of the Society of Reproductive Surgeons. "If the technique can be translated to humans, it could greatly improve patients' quality of life, relieving them of having to resort to drugs, devices or surgery." O-27 Mills et al, Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) gene therapy using a non-viral gene delivery system improves erectile function in a diabetic rat model

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, founded in 1944, is an organization of more than 8,000 physicians, researchers, nurses, technicians, and other professionals dedicated to advancing knowledge and expertise in reproductive biology. Affiliated societies include the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, The Society for Male Reproduction and Urology, the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, and the Society of Reproductive Surgeons.


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