Project Title: Fetal exposure to cannabinoids: exposure, methylation, and neurodevelopmental effects
Stefanie Kennon-McGill, Ph.D., is an instructor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health in the UAMS College of Public Health. The KL2 Mentored Research Career Development Award will support her efforts to evaluate the neurodevelopmental effects and epigenetic changes in children who were exposed to cannabinoids during the gestational period.
Cannabis and cannabis-derived phytochemicals known as cannabinoids, particularly the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the non-psychoactive component cannabidiol (CBD), have become increasingly popular and widely available for use in the United States due to recent changes in state legislation. While there is a growing effort to evaluate the health effects of cannabinoids, especially during pregnancy, there is still relatively little known about the long term neurodevelopmental outcomes in children born to mothers who used any sort of cannabinoid during pregnancy.
Additionally, the mechanisms behind possible neurodevelopmental changes in children exposed to cannabis prenatally have not been thoroughly explored, particularly in humans. It has been suggested that epigenetic modifications may play an important role in “reprogramming” the developing fetal brain following prenatal exposure to cannabis. Yet, few studies have evaluated this quantitatively in humans. Dr. Kennon-McGill aims to fill these gaps in knowledge by using state-of-the-art analytical methods to quantify THC, CBD, and metabolites in mother/infant pairs where mother reports use of THC or CBD in the final trimester of pregnancy. Her study will also entail neurodevelopmental assessments in the infants at 6 and 12 months of age. The role of DNA methylation as a possible mechanism of importance in neural development will be examined as well.
Dr. Kennon-McGill joined the UAMS College of Public Health in 2017. Prior to her time at UAMS, she received her doctorate in Neuroscience from the University of Kansas Medical Center in 2014 and then completed a two year postdoctoral fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis.
Laura James, M.D., Associate Vice Chancellor, Clinical and Translational Research; Professor, Department of Pediatrics; Director, Translational Research Institute, UAMS College of Medicine
Shuk-Mei Ho, Ph.D., Vice Chancellor of Research; Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, UAMS College of Medicine
John Constantino, M.D., Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; Blanche F. Ittleson Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics Washington University, Saint Louis, MO
Ricky Leung, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, UAMS College of Medicine
Jeff Moran, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, UAMS College of Medicine