Adapted Media Release Published: Monday 3 October 2016
In this new era of legalized marijuana, far too little research has been conducted on the effect of cannabis on the development of human embryos, say researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center who scoured medical literature on the topic and found what they say is worrisome animal research.
Their study, in the journal BioMed Central (BMC) Pharmacology and Toxicology, suggests an urgent need for human epidemiological and basic research that examines the link between maternal cannabinoid use, either smoked or eaten in candy bars, and the health of newborns. Cannabinoids are chemicals like THC, the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana, that act on cannabinoid receptors in neurons, repressing the normal release of neurotransmitters.
"We know from limited human studies that use of marijuana in early pregnancy is associated with many of the same risks as tobacco, including miscarriage, birth defects, developmental delays and learning disabilities, but animal research suggests the potential for many more developmental issues linked with the drug," says the study's senior investigator, G. Ian Gallicano, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular & cellular biology at Georgetown.
"All of the model systems point to the notion that cannabinoids affects many aspects of human development because THC and other chemicals alter molecular pathways that shouldn't be disrupted during development of a fetus," he says.