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Study Reveals Cannabis Use Linked to Epigenetic Changes in Human Body

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Study Reveals Cannabis Use Linked to Epigenetic Changes in Human Body

(CTN News) – Cannabis usage may alter the human body’s epigenome, according to a research of over 1,000 adults. The epigenome activates or deactivates genes to regulate body function.

In July 2023, Lifang Hou, a preventative medical practitioner and epidemiologist from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, reported that cumulative marijuana usage was associated with various epigenetic markers over time.

Cannabis Use and DNA Methylation

According to Hou and a team of US experts, 49 percent of people have tried cannabis at least once. Although legal in several US states and some nations, its impact on health remains unclear.

The researchers examined over 1,000 persons who had previously participated in a long-term study in which they were queried about their cannabis use over 20 years. During that time, study participants supplied blood samples twice: at 15 and 20 years. They were between 18 and 30 at baseline, or ‘year 0’.

Hou and her team analyzed blood samples from five years apart to examine epigenetic alterations, specifically DNA methylation levels, in individuals who had used cannabis lately or for a long time.

Adding or removing methyl groups from DNA is a widely studied epigenetic alteration. Modifying the genomic sequence alters gene function because it makes it more difficult for cells to read the genome instruction manual when these molecular modifications are present.

Environmental and lifestyle factors can cause methylation alterations, which can be passed down to future generations. Blood biomarkers can provide information on recent and historical exposures.

“We previously identified associations between marijuana use and the aging process as captured through DNA methylation,” Hou went on to say.

“We wanted to further explore whether specific epigenetic factors were associated with marijuana and whether these factors are related to health outcomes.”

The detailed data on the subjects’ cannabis use enabled them to estimate cumulative and current consumption and compare it to DNA methylation markers in their blood for study.

Need for Further Research on Cannabis and Health Outcomes

In the 15-year blood samples, they discovered several DNA methylation markers, 22 of which were connected with recent usage and 31 with cumulative cannabis use. In the 20-year samples, 132 markers were associated with current usage and 16 with cumulative use.

“Interestingly, we consistently identified one marker that has previously been associated with tobacco use,” he said, “suggesting a potential shared epigenetic regulation between tobacco and marijuana use.”

Cannabis usage has been connected to several epigenetic modifications, including cellular proliferation, hormone signaling, infections, neurological illnesses (such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder), and substance use disorders.

It is important to highlight that this study does not establish that cannabis directly causes these alterations or causes health issues.

“This research has provided novel insights into the association between marijuana use and epigenetic factors,” stated epidemiologist Drew Nannini from Northwestern University.

“More research is needed to discover whether these connections are constant across different populations. Furthermore, studies looking at the influence of marijuana on age-related health outcomes may shed further light on marijuana’s long-term impact on health.”

Arsi Mughal is a staff writer at CTN News, delivering insightful and engaging content on a wide range of topics. With a knack for clear and concise writing, he crafts articles that resonate with readers. Arsi's pieces are well-researched, informative, and presented in a straightforward manner, making complex subjects accessible to a broad audience. His writing style strikes the perfect balance between professionalism and casual approachability, ensuring an enjoyable reading experience.

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