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Ontario [Canada], Jan 18 (ANI): A research study revealed that THC, which is the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, has an important effect on placental and fetal growth during pregnancy.
The study, led by the Western University and Queen’s University, was published in the Scientific Reports journal.
The survey used rat model and human placental cells to show that maternal exposure to THC during pregnancy has a measurable impact on both the development of the organs of the fetus and the gene expression that is essential to placental function.
In a rat model, researchers showed that regular exposure to a low-dose of THC which imitates cannabis use in daily life resulted in an eight per cent reduction in birth mass and a more than twenty per cent reduction in growth in brain and liver.
Dan Hardy, co-author of the study said: “This data supports clinical studies that suggest cannabis use during pregnancy it is associated with low birth weight babies. Clinical data is complicated because it is confounded by other factors such as socioeconomic status. This is the first study to definitively support the fact that THC alone has a direct impact on placental and fetal growth.”
The research team also characterized how THC prevents the crossing of the placenta into the developing fetus of oxygen and nutrients.
By studying human placental cells, the researchers found that exposure to THC caused a decrease in a glucose transporter called GLUT-1. This indicated that the THC is preventing the placental transfer of glucose, a key nutrient, from the mother to the fetus. They also found a reduction in placental vasculature in the rat model suggesting reduced blood flow from the mother to the fetus.
The researchers are of the view that both these factors potentially contribute to the growth restriction in the offspring.
However, researchers pointed out that there are currently no clear guidelines from Health Canada on the use of cannabis in pregnancy.
But some studies have shown that up to one in five women use cannabis in the womb to avoid sleep depression or for anxiety or social reasons.
“Marijuana has been legalized in Canada and in many states in the US, however, its use during pregnancy has not been well studied up until this point. This study is important to support clinicians in communicating the very real risks associated with cannabis use during pregnancy,” said David Natale, another co-author of the paper. (ANI)