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Subspecialties Pediatric, Basic & Translational Research, Retina

Budding Parents Beware

Cannabis use is increasingly being legalized and researched for therapeutic uses – but how does prenatal exposure affect eyesight?  Researchers in Brazil have shown that prenatal cannabis exposure may cause structural changes in the retina (1). Pregnant mice exposed to cannabis smoke for five minutes daily produced offspring with 17 percent thinner retinas in young adulthood. Although retina thickness returned to the same levels as those of non-exposed mice by adulthood, this indicates that children who are exposed prenatally to cannabis may require more frequent ophthalmic care. Evidence of this phenomenon in humans will be a key next step, but prenatal cannabis exposure is already known to cause reduced birth weight (2, 3) and cognitive effects in humans (4).

Potential therapeutic uses of cannabis are increasingly being investigated, but there is always the need for caution around developing nervous systems – a warning to budding parents.

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  1. PRA Zantut et al., Int J Retina Vitreous, 7, 45 (2021). PMID: 34193310.
  2. JKL Gunn et al., BMJ Open, 6, e009986 (2016). PMID: 27048634.
  3. DR English et al., Addiction, 92, 1553 (1997). PMID: 9519497.
  4. AC Huizink, EJH Mulder, Neurosci Biobehav Rev, 30, 24 (2006). PMID: 16095697.
About the Author
Geoffrey Potjewyd

Associate Editor, The Ophthalmologist

The lion’s share of my PhD was spent in the lab, and though I mostly enjoyed it (mostly), what I particularly liked was the opportunity to learn about the latest breakthroughs in research. Communicating science to a wider audience allows me to scratch that itch without working all week only to find my stem cell culture has given up the ghost on the Friday (I’m not bitter). Fortunately for me, it turns out writing is actually fun – so by working for Texere I get to do it every day, whilst still being an active member of the clinical and research community.

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