Weed. Marijuana. Mary Jane. J.
There are many names for the drug that most of us know so well. Many people all over the country have been pushing for the legalization of marijuana with places like Colorado having succeeded. Though not completely legal everywhere, there has been so much scientific evidence as to the medical benefits of marijuana it is used to treat certain illnesses. With all its positive medical benefits, it is not without health risks. There have been studies that show that women who use cannabis during pregnancy are at high risk for having babies with abnormal neurobehavioral functioning in addition to other abnormal biological traits (Huizink, Anja C., and Eduard JH Mulder, 2006). But we all know that there are a lot of things that mothers shouldn’t do because it would affect their children. But what about fathers? They play half the part in making the baby too (in terms of DNA that is). What the father does could also affect the baby as well right?
As most of you may know, this summer I am working in the Neurotoxicity/Neuropharmacology lab of Dr. Edward Levin. The specific project that I am involved in looks at THC and how it affects epigenetics in the offspring when it is administered to the father. Of course, it would be a little unethical to use humans for this study so instead, we are using rats. We are administering THC to male rats, mating them with female rats that have never been high in their life, then putting the offspring through a few tests while also looking at the brain functioning and structure of the offspring. Theses tests include attention tasks, maze tasks, and other assessments that look at cognitive functioning. After those tasks, we will be comparing the brains of those rats and normal rats to see if there is a difference.
I find this study so interesting because as an aspiring neuroscientist\physician it is very imperative to look at how lifestyle choices could affect the neurocircuitry, cognitive functioning, and epigenetics of future offspring. Abnormalities in neurocircuitry could ultimately lead to different types of mental illness. Of course prevention is better than a cure so since I also want to have a focus on mental illness, this working on this study is a great way for me to play a hand in the field that I want to go into in addition to making discoveries that could impact how I help my patients in the future.
Huizink, A. C., & Mulder, E. J. (2006). Maternal smoking, drinking or cannabis use during pregnancy and neurobehavioral and cognitive functioning in human offspring. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 30(1), 24-41.