The following is excerpted from an online article posted by MedicalXpress.
In a new study, University of California, Irvine researchers found that exposure to the compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, a component of cannabis) at a young age could lead to depleted ovarian follicles and matured eggs in adulthood by nearly 50 percent.
The study, published online in the journal Toxicological Sciences, shows that the use of cannabis earlier in a female’s life could have long-term effects on her ability to conceive.
“Given that more and more teenagers and young adults are using cannabis, especially with easier access to the substance, this study’s findings are especially important,” said senior and corresponding author Dr. Ulrike Luderer, professor of environmental and occupational health at the UCI Program in Public Health. “It is imperative to widely broadcast the consequences of early-life exposure to cannabis on reproductive health in adulthood.”
The research team used a mouse model to test their hypothesis that THC can cause adverse health effects in adulthood. They started by injecting THC into immature mice for a period of two weeks and evaluated the effects on their models at different time periods post-injection. They found that the number of healthy ovarian follicles decreased by nearly 50% in primordial follicles, which are the fundamental reproductive units of the ovary and are non-renewable.
Researchers suspect that the dramatic drop in ovarian follicle numbers was caused by accelerated activation of resting follicles, followed by DNA-damage-associated death of follicles at later stages of development.
“Our findings provide unexpected new insights into the long-term impact of THC on reproductive function and aging,” said co-author Daniele Piomelli, Ph.D., distinguished professor of anatomy and neurobiology at the UCI School of Medicine. “Our hope is that our findings will motivate teenage girls to make better, more informed decisions about whether or not to ingest cannabis products.”