Researchers from Oregon Health & Science University demonstrated that ingesting THC while pregnant has the potential to disrupt the foetus’ development and have long-lasting effects on the offspring’s health.
Today, the preclinical study was released in the Clinical Epigenetics journal.
THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis, which is becoming more widely used and accessible in the United States. Pregnant women are increasingly using cannabis, particularly in the first trimester when the foetus is most susceptible to environmental exposures, to alleviate typical symptoms like morning sickness. However, due in part to a dearth of safety data, it is still unclear what impact prenatal cannabis usage may have on foetal development. The purpose of this study was to determine any potential long-term effects of THC consumption on health.
Researchers at OHSU discovered that exposure to THC during pregnancy changed the placental and foetal epigenome, which includes the chemical alterations to DNA that control gene expression and regulation by directing genes what, where, and when to do something. Additionally, scientists discovered that these modifications to gene regulation and expression are consistent with those observed in a number of prevalent neurobehavioral disorders, including autism spectrum disorder.
Researchers used nonhuman monkeys in a model and tested the effects of THC to a group that received a placebo. Researchers specifically examined the epigenetic modifications in the placenta, the tissue disc that joins the umbilical cord and uterus, the foetal lung, brain, and heart, as well as other important sites that suggest good prenatal development.
Analyses of these regions revealed that THC exposure changed the epigenome, which is the mechanism by which the data contained in a gene is converted into a function or perceptible feature.
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