The times sure have changed since Woodstock ’69. Instead of having to hide their stash from the nearest authority figures, cannabis enthusiasts have been given the greenlight by the recent legalization of cannabis products across the globe. In fact, studies suggest that cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis, can be helpful in treating anything from anxiety to epilepsy.
You can buy CBD-infused bath bombs, mattresses, and even toilet paper, but a new study from the lab of Christopher Faulk (University of Minnesota) shows that CBD exposure isn’t all “sunshine and rainbows” for prenatal mouse brain DNA methylomes.
The talented team exposed pregnant mice to CBD-infused honey and studied their abstinent offspring once they became adults. They found that:
- Female offspring of CBD-exposed mice are more anxious than control offspring, when measured by a marble burying task
- Female offspring in the CBD-exposed group mice have difficulty with spatial memory and re-explore sections of a Y-maze more often than their control counterparts
- Prenatal CBD exposure alters the developing brain methylome and results in more than 2234 differentially methylated loci (DMLs) in the frontal cortex and 4190 DMLs in the hippocampus of F1 adults
- In both brain areas, DMLs are biased towards hypomethylation, enriched within genic regions, and include genes that are involved in neurogenesis and memory
The savvy scientists also compared the DMLs in the offspring (F1) brains with DMLs from the cortex of exposed mothers (F0) and found that they share some gene ontology categories in common, like synaptic transmission and neuronal morphology.
Dr. Nicole Wanner, who led the study, says that “the intersection of cannabinoids and epigenetics is an understudied area, and evidence for CBD modifying DNA methylation was previously limited to a small number of in vitro studies. We now know that CBD is epigenetically active in the brain in vivo and that DNA methylation marks are persistently modified long after exposure has ceased.”
Senior author Christopher Faulks adds, “The fetal and early-life environment are extremely powerful in shaping future health and disease; our study presents an argument for caution against CBD use during pregnancy and highlights the strong need for further research regarding both behavioral outcomes and the involvement of the epigenome.”