The Impact of THC on Developmental Parameters, Fertilization Capability, Epigenetic Modification in Sperm and Embryos Produced In Vitro with THC-Exposed Sperm
This thesis explores the impacts of delta-9-tetrhydrocannabinol (THC) on sperm functions pre- and post-fertilization including the acrosomal reaction, mitochondrial membrane potential, embryo development and micro-RNA profiles within sperm and blastocysts following IVF with THC-exposed sperm. As THC concentrations and cannabis use rise exponentially, especially among men of reproductive age, it is critical to address knowledge gaps in research concerning the impacts of cannabis on male fertility. Health risks associated with cannabis are primarily attributed to THC-induced disruptions to pro-homeostatic endocannabinoid signalling, which regulates the function of reproductive organs and gametes in both sexes. We hypothesized that THC would adversely affect morpho-functional and intrinsic sperm features, subsequently affecting the development and epigenome of blastocysts generated by IVF. Using bovine sperm as a model for humans, the results indicate that THC does not impact the acrosomal reaction, but disrupts sperm mitochondrial membrane potential and micro-RNA levels, subsequently altering blastocyst quality and micro-RNA expression, suggesting that paternal cannabis use may negatively impact the reproduction.