A new research has explained how a one-time use of marijuana ingredients like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) can cause developmental issues in the growing embryo.

This is the first-ever study to document the connection between marijuana use and growth defects in mammals. The researchers carried out the study in mice models to examine the development that occurs during the early stages of pregnancy.

The lead author Scott Parnell, Assistant Professor of cell biology and physiology in the UNC School of Medicine said that the development of the embryo at the initial stages of pregnancy is very similar across all vertebrates. In their study, they tested a synthetic cannabinoid in zebrafish which also yielded similar growth deformations as the natural marijuana ingredients. He emphasized that having the same results across different animal models reinforces their findings.

The brain and facial developmental issues faced due to single exposure to CBD and THC have been reported to be similar to that of fetal alcohol syndrome. The researchers also revealed that when marijuana and alcohol were taken together, the chances of such birth defects more than doubled. They proved that marijuana ingredients might be causing defects by interacting on a basic cellular level which disrupts molecular signaling that is vital for growth and development.

The researchers expressed their concern about the interaction between alcohol and Cannabinoids. Previous researches have established the fact that CBs and alcohol are frequently used together, and such a habit among pregnant women could be very dangerous to developing fetuses.

In this study, varying amounts of CBs and CBs with alcohol were given on day eight of pregnancy (which is comparable to the third and fourth week of human pregnancy). That is the particular period when alcohol and CBD exposure is found to damage a developing embryo. The CBD amounts administered during the study were also within the therapeutic range for human beings.

“It is concerning how little we know about the use of marijuana, CBs, and products like CBD oil during pregnancy,” said Parnell. “We know that there is no safe period to drink alcohol during pregnancy, and I think this research shows the same is likely true of marijuana use,” he added.

With the findings of this single exposure of marijuana ingredients, the researchers are now planning to examine smaller, multiple exposures throughout a pregnancy that mimics real-life usage in human pregnancy, better.

Cannabis and cannabinoids are increasingly being made available for medicinal use in North America, Britain and Australia without being subjected to standard testing processes Cannabis and cannabinoids are increasingly being made available for medicinal use in North America, Britain and Australia without being subjected to standard testing processes Photo: AFP / Philippe LOPEZ