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‘Marijuana receptor’ might hold the key to new fertility treatments for men

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In a research report appearing in the April 2016 issue of The FASEB Journal, scientists show that a cannabinoid receptor, called "CB2," helps regulate the creation of sperm. Not only does this provide more evidence that marijuana can disrupt fertility in males, but it also suggests a therapeutic strategy for treating male infertility.

"The possibility to improve male fertility is one of the main focuses of this study, since infertility is a worldwide problem that affect up to 15% of couples in which male factors account for almost 20-70%," said Paola Grimaldi, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Biomedicine and Prevention, School of Medicine at the University of Rome Tor Vergata in Rome, Italy.

To make their discovery, Grimaldi and colleagues treated three groups of mice with different agents for 14 to 21 days. The first group was treated with a specific activator of the CB2 receptor. The second group was treated with a specific inhibitor of the CB2 receptor. The third group received only a saline solution and served as the control group. The group treated with the CB2 activator showed an acceleration of spermatogenesis, while the group treated with the inhibitor displayed a slower rate of the process. This suggests that a tight balance of CB2 activation is required for the proper progression of spermatogenesis.

"That the normal beneficial effects of endogenous cannabinoids on spermatogenesis can be stimulated further by a chemical mimic, an agonist, is a potentially promising new idea for treating male infertility," said Thoru Pederson, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal.

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Submit your research to The FASEB Journal by visiting http://fasebj.msubmit.net/ or http://submit.fasebj.org. Receive monthly highlights from The FASEB Journal by signing up at http://www.faseb.org/fjupdate.aspx. The FASEB Journal is published by the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). It is among the world's most cited biology journals according to the Institute for Scientific Information and has been recognized by the Special Libraries Association as one of the top 100 most influential biomedical journals of the past century.

FASEB is composed of 30 societies with more than 125,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. Our mission is to advance health and welfare by promoting progress and education in biological and biomedical sciences through service to our member societies and collaborative advocacy.

Details: Daniele Di Giacomo, Emanuela De Domenico, Claudio Sette, Raffaele Geremia, and Paola Grimaldi. Type 2 cannabinoid receptor contributes to the physiological regulation of spermatogenesis. FASEB J. April 2016 30:1453-1463; Final publication April 1, 2016. Early online publication December 15, 2015. doi:10.1096/fj.15-279034 ; http://www.fasebj.org/content/30/4/1453.abstract

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