New UC study finds heavy cannabis use affects human genome

University of Canterbury 6 May 2020
Family First Comment: New Zealand 🇳🇿 based research…

“there is already strong evidence that chronic, heavy use of cannabis can increase the risk of mental health issues such as depression and schizophrenia. It is also associated with heart disease. This study shows how cannabis use is linked to changes in gene pathways that may explain the link between heavy cannabis use and those adverse health outcomes.”

Heavy cannabis use has an impact on human DNA but the effect is stronger in people who smoke tobacco as well, according to new University of Canterbury (UC) research.

The study, recently published in Translational Psychiatry, investigates how heavy cannabis use can lead to alterations in “DNA methylation” – chemical changes in the body that influence how our genes work.

UC College of Science lecturer Dr Amy Osborne, lead author of the UC study, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Otago Christchurch, University of Otago, and ESR, says there is already strong evidence that chronic, heavy use of cannabis can increase the risk of mental health issues such as depression and schizophrenia. It is also associated with heart disease.

“This study shows how cannabis use is linked to changes in gene pathways that may explain the link between heavy cannabis use and those adverse health outcomes,” she says. “However, in terms of the effect on the genome and DNA methylation, cannabis appears to have a distinct and somewhat more subtle effect than tobacco. It’s not altering gene pathways to the same extent, but it does affect them in very specific ways.”

The 48 subjects in the new research – all heavy cannabis users – were members of the Christchurch Health and Development longitudinal study. Blood samples were taken when they were aged 28 and analysed for DNA methylation differences between cannabis users and non-users.

The biggest changes were in those who smoked tobacco as well as cannabis, but there was also evidence of distinct and specific DNA alterations in those who smoked only cannabis, compared to non-users.

The most affected genes were identified as those involved in brain and heart function.
READ MORE: https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/news/2020/new-uc-study-finds-heavy-cannabis-use-affects-human-genome.html
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