A new study has revealed that the use of marijuana by pregnant women to relieve morning sickness can affect developing babies' brains. The study was presented at the meeting 'Experimental Biology 2019'. Earlier researches have shown children born to mothers who took marijuana when pregnant, are likely to develop behavioural problems as well as learning and memory impairments.
This study brings further confirmation on previous findings and points to how the drug alters the intricate connections in nerves in the hippocampus. "The findings from this study will serve as an excellent premise for future interventions to restore memory in children exposed to cannabis during pregnancy, and for the first time, identify a specific mechanism by which learning and memory impairment occurs and how this impairment can be ameliorated," said Priyanka Das Pinky.
The study was done on mice where some of the female rats were exposed to a synthetic chemical that activates the same proteins as cannabis during their pregnancy. Next, they examined the brains of baby rats and found that the nerves in the hippocampus were reduced in those exposed to synthetic cannabis.
Researchers found that the root cause was a reduction in neural cell adhesion molecules (NCAM), a protein necessary to maintain proper neural connection and synaptic strength. Pinky said, "Based on our research and the previous existing findings in the field, it can be said that using marijuana during pregnancy would not be a wise choice."
The finding suggests it may be possible to counteract marijuana's effects by increasing the NCAM, though more research is needed to understand the mechanisms involved and determine whether the findings from studies in animals would translate to human babies. "It is still very early to come up with a conclusion about the possible safe use of marijuana during pregnancy," Pinky noted.
Pinky concluded by saying, "However, it is also notable that the observed effect in the offspring can vary according to their age and according to the trimester during which they were exposed to the drug as well as dose and route of administration of the drug."
(With inputs from agencies.)