Article by Zach Reichard, Medical Jane
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 marijuana, 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.
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.