With the legalization of marijuana in some U.S. states, there's still relatively little research that expands on the effect of cannabis in human development.
Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center investigated previous studies on marijuana effects, and they uncover troubling results on using animals for cannabis research. This prompted their study on the effect of cannabis on human embryos, infants, and newborns, as reported in a news release
Published in the journal BioMed Central Pharmacology and Toxicology, the study suggests that there's an urgent need to examine the link between maternal cannabinoid use and the health of newborn babies. The study delves into explaining tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana.
THC acts on cannabinoid receptors in neurons that repress the normal release of neurotransmitters. THC is a promising chemical agent in treating cancer. Because it affects and stumps the growth of a tumor, a clinical study should be done to test
the effectiveness of marijuana in human development. This is especially helpful since embryo development is similar to tumor formation, which means that THC compound might affect the growth of the embryo.
G. Ian Gallicano, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry and molecular & cellular biology at Georgetown and the study's senior investigator, says that the reason why there is limited research is that marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug
, which is proven to be a challenge in conducting research. The study started off as a project from four Georgetown medical students – Joseph Friedrich, Dara Khatib, Keon Parsa, and Ariana Santopietro.