Researchers discover negative effects on babies' pancreas
Endocannabinoids are cannabis-like substances that are produced by the body itself and are used in many development steps such as play an important role in the development of the nervous system in the embryo. However, if there is an excess in the blood, this could potentially have a negative impact on the unborn child's pancreas, thereby increasing the risk of diabetes. This is the result of a study by the Medical University of Vienna, which has now been published in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America" (PNAS).
Substance helps regulate many physiological processes
The so-called "endocannabinoids" are endogenous messenger substances that bind to the same receptors as cannabis. Since its discovery in the early 1990s, the substance has been considered a "multi-talent", since it regulates many physiological processes from birth, e.g. fertility, development of the central nervous system or pain sensation, according to the MedUni Vienna.
Endocannabinoids can "program" the pancreas
Now researchers from the University of Vienna have been able to gain further knowledge about the jack of all trades in a study. Accordingly, the endocannabinoids may also be able to "program" the pancreas of unborn babies. This is due to the fact that the messenger substances during the formation of the glandular organ could influence both the composition and the size of the "Langerhans Islands". By regulating the release of insulin and glucagon, these regulate the concentration of glucose in the blood (“blood sugar level”).
"In our experiments, the islet cells could be modulated almost at will by the addition of molecules that regulate endocannabinoid signaling and formed functioning pancreatic cell clusters," says the first author Katarzyna Malenczyk from the MedUni.
Reduced concentration due to omega-3 fatty acids
A too high proportion of endocannabinoids in the blood could therefore lead to problems with the processing of glucose, which means that the child is at increased risk of diabetes. The intake of unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids could offer a remedy, the university further reports. Because e.g. Essential substances contained in fish oil could help to lower the endocannabinoid concentration in both the expectant mother and child and to develop a healthy pancreas.
“This new understanding will certainly help us develop strategies for the timely repair of delayed or failed development of the pancreas. And it will also accelerate the pharmacological development of effective drugs. In any case, the therapeutic potential is great […] “, says study director Tibor Harkany. (No)