Whoa, dude: what’s this about?
It’s not, like, about smoking dope: it’s about researchers in Sweden and Indiana experimenting with fetal mice whose brains naturally produce a chemical similar to Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana.
Scientists have known from studying women who smoke marijuana during pregnancy that when you add cannabinoids to fetal brain cells, it prevents neurons from making strong connections. But why?
The researchers found that the naturally occurring endocannabinoids (made by the brain) help position the rootlike feelers, called axons, that neurons use to communicate with one another. The process is highly sensitive to the amounts of the chemical, when it’s released, and its location in the brain. Adding THC-like chemicals from the outside throws off this delicate balance.
When researchers added synthetic cannabinoids to the wee little mouse brains, their axons withdrew from the areas of high concentration and moved in other directions.
According to an article posted on ScientificAmerican.com,
The researchers found two groups of brain cells in embryonic mice that carried the CBR proteins for several days during late development. (Mice gestate in 18 or 19 days.) The cells were located in the cortex, the brain region that controls attention and planning in humans and other mammals.
THC would likely affect very similar brain systems in human fetuses, says neuroscientist Yasmin Hurd of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, but its concentration would be much higher than that of any endocannabinoid. “It would have an even more pronounced effect on axonal growth and guidance,” she says.
Apparently, a woman’s marijuana smoking during pregnancy causes children to learn more slowly than other kids, but they are just as intelligent–and now we know why. This should convince anyone contemplating smoking a bong near a pregnant woman to cease and desist. It also adds new meaning to the term “dazed and confused.”
This startup wants to copy you into an embryo for organ harvesting
With plans to create realistic synthetic embryos, grown in jars, Renewal Bio is on a journey to the horizon of science and ethics.
VR is as good as psychedelics at helping people reach transcendence
On key metrics, a VR experience elicited a response indistinguishable from subjects who took medium doses of LSD or magic mushrooms.
This artist is dominating AI-generated art. And he’s not happy about it.
Greg Rutkowski is a more popular prompt than Picasso.
This nanoparticle could be the key to a universal covid vaccine
Ending the covid pandemic might well require a vaccine that protects against any new strains. Researchers may have found a strategy that will work.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.