The study involving over 1,000 adults suggests that cannabis usage may result in changes to the human body’s epigenome. These findings might prove crucial in comprehending the impact of cannabis on our health. The study will expand our understanding of the long-term impacts of marijuana on human health. Among the most surprising findings was the discovery of a common epigenetic marker shared between marijuana and tobacco use, suggesting a potential shared epigenetic regulation pathway between the two substances. This discovery opens up new avenues for research, enhancing our knowledge of the intertwined effects of these commonly used substances on human health.
Uncovering Cannabis’ Epigenetic Footprint
Dr. Lifang Hou, an expert in preventative medicine and epidemiology from Northwestern University, stated, “We observed associations between cumulative marijuana use and multiple epigenetic markers across time.” It implies that both recent and long-term cannabis usage could impact the human epigenome.
DNA methylation, a prevalent epigenetic modification, was studied by Hou and her team using blood samples taken at 15- and 20-year intervals. Methylation, which involves adding or removing methyl groups from DNA, can change gene activity without modifying the genomic sequence.
Cannabis and Aging
Previously, Hou’s team identified links between marijuana usage and the aging process through DNA methylation. The current study builds upon these findings, identifying numerous DNA methylation markers linked with recent and cumulative cannabis usage.
Shared Epigenetic Markers with Tobacco
A particularly intriguing discovery is a common marker shared with tobacco use, indicating potential shared epigenetic regulation between tobacco and marijuana. “We consistently identified one marker that has previously been associated with tobacco use,” Hou explained, underscoring the novelty of this finding.
Consequences of Epigenetic Changes
The study linked the observed epigenetic changes to several factors like cellular proliferation, hormone signaling, and infections. These changes were also related to neurological disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and substance use disorders.
However, Hou cautiously noted, “This study doesn’t prove that cannabis directly causes these changes or causes health problems.” The study provides initial insights, requiring more research to affirm these associations conclusively.
Future Research and Implications
Dr. Drew Nannini, an epidemiologist from Northwestern University, added, “Additional studies are needed to determine whether these associations are consistently observed in different populations.” He further suggested that research on the effect of marijuana on age-related health outcomes could provide additional insight into its long-term health impacts.
While the study makes strides in understanding the health implications of cannabis usage, it primarily sets the stage for more focused research on the epigenetic changes caused by cannabis. As such, the findings of this research hold potential to guide future public health decisions regarding marijuana legalization and usage.