The endocannabinoid system & pre and post-natal development
Research into the workings of the endocannabinoid system has yielded significant discoveries for scientists attempting to learn more about pre and post-natal development.
It is apparent that endocannabinoids, chemical compounds produced in the body that are similar to the psychoactive ingredients in cannabis, act as a catalyst for early embryonic development and development thereafter into maturity. The same compounds have also been found at incredibly high concentrations in maternal breast milk, suggesting that cannabinoids are more important to our successful growth than was ever thought before.
All Humans Are Born With Cannabinoid Receptors
The European Journal of Pharmacology published an article back in 2004 that claimed the messenger RNA of CB1 (the abbreviation for a group of specialized proteins known as cannabinoid receptors) can be found in the human embryo just fourteen weeks after gestation. Subsequently in the 20th week, growth of cannabinoid receptor activity in several areas of the brain starts to accelerate at a rapid rate. Observation of the embryo at this stage indicates that the cannabinoid receptors are functional and active during this early stage of development.
Earlier studies proved that two endocannabinoids, anandamide and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol, are both present in the early stages of a human embryo. Anandamide has been proven to start out in low concentrations in the embryonic stage, gradually increasing throughout time until the eventual levels that we reach in maturity are attained.
“Endocannabinoids and their receptors are abundantly present from the early developmental stages, and are therefore likely to be important in the maturation of the nervous system and its functions.”
Interestingly enough, it is exactly the opposite for 2-arachidonoyl glycerol, which starts at its highest concentration levels in the embryo and gradually decreases over time.
Endocannabinoid Production in Human Breast Milk
The discovery of endocannabinoid production in human breast milk is certainly another nail in the coffin for those who subscribe to the theory that cannabis belongs in the same category as other class-1 narcotics. The occurrence and role of cannabinoids in breast milk has been the subject of multiple studies, and it is the belief of researchers that cannabinoids play an integral role in how babies learn to latch onto their mother’s nipple for sustenance.
It is theorized that, since cannabinoid activity has already been proven to be linked with appetite stimulation in adults, cannabinoids in breast milk are what first stimulate a nursing baby’s appetite. Cannabinoids, combined with other nutrients in breast milk, also provide the newborn with protection from viruses, bacteria, and cancer causing factors. This means that cannabinoids are quite literally essential in the development of infants.
These types of findings make the continued prohibition of cannabis seem utterly ludicrous. Cannabinoids are an integral part of our development and well-being from the time we are in our mother’s wombs, throughout the entirety of our lives. Their presence in a mother’s breast milk jump starts the newborn’s appetite for the first time (this process can be seen in a different scenario when adults smoke cannabis and get the munchies). The health benefits that cannabinoids offer can be seen time and time again; whether it’s in the developing nervous system of an unborn child, the breast milk of a nursing mother, or even in a chemistry of a simple plant.
Oxylipins, endocannabinoids, and related compounds in human milk: levels and effects of storage conditions.
The presence of fatty acid derived oxylipins, endocannabinoids and related compounds in human milk may be of importance to the infant. Presently, clinically relevant protocols for storing and handling human milk that minimize error and variability in oxylipin and endocannabinoid concentrations are lacking. In this study, we compared the individual and combined effects of the following storage conditions on the stability of these fatty acid metabolites in human milk: state (fresh or frozen), storage temperature (4°C, -20°C or -80°C), and duration (1day, 1 week or 3 months). Thirteen endocannabinoids and related compounds, as well as 37 oxylipins were analyzed simultaneously by liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry. Twelve endocannabinoids and related compounds (2-111nM) and 31 oxylipins (1.2 pM-1242nM) were detected, with highest levels being found for 2-arachidonoylglycerol and 17(R)-hydroxydocosahexaenoic acid, respectively. The concentrations of most endocannabinoid-related compounds and oxylipins were dependent on storage condition, and especially storage at 4°C introduced significant variability. Our findings suggest that human milk samples should be analyzed immediately after, or within one day of collection (if stored at 4°C). Storage at -80°C is required for long-term preservation, and storage at -20°C is acceptable for no more than one week.
These findings provide a protocol for investigating the oxylipin and endocannabinoid metabolome in human milk, useful for future milk-related clinical studies.
Cannabis-Like Compound in Womb May Influence Early Pregnancy: