Welcome to the website for the Cannabis-Induced Potential Heritability of Epigenetic Revisions in Sperm (CIPHERS) Project at Duke University.

Project at a Glance
CIPHERS is the continuation of a 2016 pilot study supported by the John Templeton Foundation. That study observed significant epigenetic changes in the sperm of both men that used cannabis and rats exposed to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound in cannabis).

The current project aims to:

  • More completely characterize epigenetic changes in sperm focusing on DNA methylation and histone modification
  • Evaluate whether neurodevelopmental and behavioral patterns are associated with epigenetic changes
  • Determine the heritability of epigenetic changes to the exposed user’s offspring
  • Understand whether epigenetic changes are reversible after abstinence from cannabis use

To answer these questions, the CIPHERS Project utilizes human study cohorts, a rodent population, and an epigenetic lab. In light of the shifting policy landscape around marijuana use in the U.S. and Canada, findings will be shared with relevant policymakers, the medical community, and the public. The CIPHERS Project hopes to contribute our research findings and broader understanding to wider public health conversations regarding cannabis use, male reproductive health, and family planning.