Impacts of cannabinoid epigenetics on human development: reflections on Murphy et. al. ‘cannabinoid exposure and altered DNA methylation in rat and human sperm’ epigenetics 2018; 13: 1208-1221.

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Recent data from the Kollins lab (‘Cannabinoid exposure and altered DNA methylation in rat and human sperm’ Epigenetics 2018; 13: 1208-1221) indicated epigenetic effects of cannabis use on sperm in man parallel those in rats and showed substantial shifts in both hypo- and hyper-DNA methylation with the latter predominating. This provides one likely mechanism for the transgenerational transmission of epigenomic instability with sperm as the vector. It therefore contributes important pathophysiological insights into the probable mechanisms underlying the epidemiology of prenatal cannabis exposure potentially explaining diverse features of cannabis-related teratology including effects on the neuraxis, cardiovasculature, immune stimulation, secondary genomic instability and carcinogenesis related to both adult and pediatric cancers. The potentially inheritable and therefore multigenerational nature of these defects needs to be carefully considered in the light of recent teratological and neurobehavioural trends in diverse jurisdictions such as the USA nationally, Hawaii, Colorado, Canada, France and Australia, particularly relating to mental retardation, age-related morbidity and oncogenesis including inheritable cancerogenesis. Increasing demonstrations that the epigenome can respond directly and in real time and retain memories of environmental exposures of many kinds implies that the genome-epigenome is much more sensitive to environmental toxicants than has been generally realized. Issues of long-term multigenerational inheritance amplify these concerns. Further research particularly on the epigenomic toxicology of many cannabinoids is also required.

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