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Study Finds Miscarriage May Be Prevented By THC

Dragana Komnenov PhD
Close up of pregnant belly in flowered dress no miscarriage

Cannabinoid receptor problems in the placenta may cause miscarriage, according to new study.  And taking THC corrects for this.

The role the endocannabinoid system plays in reproduction has been studied for years. There is strong support of its involvement in maintaining the health and function of the placenta, and thus preventing miscarriage.

There are at least four kinds of receptors in the human body, each activated by cannabinoids. The most commonly known receptors are CB1 and CB2. The peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-g (PPAR-g) and the G-protein coupled receptor GPR55 are additional receptors that interact with cannabinoids.  Science has more recently discovered that ion channels also participate in conveying messages of cannabinoid molecules, including TRPV1 and TRPM8.

The Placenta and Cannabinoid Receptors

The main function of the human placenta is nourishment, oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange, and protein biosynthesis for the fetus. The placenta is its own organ, consisting of many different cell types. Metabolism within the placenta creates the microenvironment necessary to support development of human life.

Scientists discovered that placental cells express cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, which suggests that cannabinoids from cannabis consumption may impact placenta functioning.

pregnant woman walking down steps

Receptor Volume of Placenta Changes For Caesarean vs Vaginal Birth

Interestingly, CB1 expression is higher in placentas collected from women after caesarean section, compared to those obtained from labouring women. This indicates that cannabinoid regulation of placental homeostasis may be much more nuanced than once thought. For example, women with recurrent miscarriages have elevated levels of the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), an enzyme responsible for breaking down the endogenous cannabinoid, anandamide.

The significance of this finding is at least twofold. First, it suggests that a problem with cannabinoid signaling may be the key event in the cause of miscarriage. Secondly, administered THC can treat low endocannabinoid tone in the placenta.

Furthermore, recently it was reported that anandamide levels were lower in women diagnosed with preeclampsia, suggesting that this scenario may also be treatable with THC.

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What Role Does THC Play in Preventing Miscarriage?

There are several studies attempting to determine whether THC administration would be beneficial for placental health. In one study, THC was found to have a protective effect on the cells in lower doses, and that this is likely due to the antioxidant properties of THC.

In a recent study, scientist collected placentas from full term births to test the hypothesis of whether exposure to THC for 24hr and 72hr resulted in changes in CB receptor expression, cell viability, and the metabolic enzymes of the endocannabinoid system.

They found that both the short-term exposure (24 hours) and the long-term exposure (72 hours) did not cause any changes in the expression of CB1 and CB2 receptors. When increasing the concentration of THC to 40mM (consistent with heavy consumption) enzymes that break down anandamide increased.

Researchers expected this result. In the presence of externally provided THC, the cells work to decrease anandamide to maintain optimal levels of CB1 agonists. The scientists emphasize that recreational cannabis consumption doesn’t typically produce these high THC concentrations in plasma.

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We’re Not There Yet

However, researchers also add that metabolism of THC by the human body is extremely complex. The route of administration, metabolic rate and the amount of fat tissue in an individual all play a role. All the more, in fact, since THC is lipophilic. This means adipose tissue in humans stores it.

The discovery that THC interacts with a much wider range of receptors in the human body has raised many questions. For instance, do cannabinoid receptor volumes become altered in the placenta due to the presence THC? The sooner we find this out, the sooner we can potentially use THC to therapeutically prevent pregnancy risk, such as miscarriage.

Dragana Komnenov
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