With the increasing publicity of marijuana due to recent legislation, it is pertinent that the effects of fetal exposure to the drug are assessed. While in utero cannabis exposure has been associated with early pregnancy failure, birth defects and developmental delay, the mechanisms of such outcomes are largely unexplained.
Furthermore, the use of cannabinoids in cancer treatment via growth inhibition and apoptosis may indicate how cannabis exposure likely harms a growing fetus.
Cannabinoid signaling is required for proper pre-implantation development, embryo transport to the uterus, and uterine receptivity during implantation. In post-implantation development, cannabinoid signaling functions in a multitude of pathways, including, but not limited to, folic acid, VEGF, PCNA, MAPK/ERK, and BDNF.
Disrupting the normal activity of these pathways can significantly alter many vital in utero processes, including angiogenesis, cellular replication, tissue differentiation, and neural cognitive development. This paper aims to demonstrate the effects of cannabis exposure on a developing embryo in order to provide a molecular explanation for the adverse outcomes associated with cannabis use during pregnancy.