Complex correlations between selected endocannabinoids measured in blood or semen and sperm quality in Swiss men

Semen endocannabinoids are correlated to sperm quality in a cohort of 200 young Swiss men

​In Summary

Endocannabinoids are lipid-derived signaling molecules generated naturally by our bodies that act on the same cannabinoid receptors as exogenous phytocannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The most abundant and physiologically important endocannabinoid is anandamide (AEA). Two other endocannabinoids, palmytoylethanolamide (PEA) and oleoylethanolamide (OEA), modulate the effect of AEA and are also potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial agents.

For several reasons, in the past decade, the effects of endocannabinoids on male fertility received increasing interest. Firstly, chronic consumption of marijuana – a major source of phytocannabinoids like THC, has been consistently shown to reduce fertility. Secondly, endocannabinoids have been suggested to be involved in the process of spermatogenesis and also found in the seminal fluid as well as the uterine fluid. Finally, sperm cells were found to widely express cannabinoid receptor type 1.

A recent study demonstrated complex and conflicting correlations between seminal endocannabinoids and sperm quality in Swiss men. For instance, higher levels of endocannabinoids (AEA, OEA) appeared to be associated with low sperm motility, and a decrease in the percentage of motile and progressive cells. In contrast, more seminal PEA was significantly linked to improved spermatogenesis and subsequently, higher sperm count. Along the same line, OEA and PEA in seminal fluid were associated with a better sperm morphology.

More investigation is needed for us to fully understand the biological basis of relationships between endocannabinoids and sperm properties; nonetheless, findings discovered by this study still present endocannabinoids in semen as a class of promising biochemical markers in addition to the usual evaluation of semen quality and male fertility.


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