Born with the munchies

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Born with the munchies

Cannabis-like compounds may allow newborn babies to thrive=20

CHEMICALS related to the active ingredient of cannabis might be vital for
our survival. Naturally occurring cannabinoids in newborn mice trigger
feeding, and without them the animals may die within days, says a biologist
in Israel. She believes the chemicals could play a similar role in people.=

Cannabinoids produced in the body are known to be natural painkillers. They
also coordinate the dopamine system, helping to control movement. But
smoking cannabis increases appetite, a property that is sometimes exploited
to help cancer and AIDS patients. Cannabinoids have also been detected in
human and cow's milk, and levels here are at their highest the day after
giving birth. Ester Fride of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem thought
these observations might be a clue that naturally occurring cannabinoids
are important in the early development of newborns.=20

To test this, she injected newborn mice with a chemical that blocks
cannabinoids by competing for receptors in the brain. None of the treated
pups fed from their mothers. Some died within a week, and those that
survived developed more slowly, Fride told the meeting.=20

When Fride and her colleagues treated the pups with the active component of
cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, in a dose sufficient to swamp the
effect of the blocker, the pups fed and grew normally, confirming that the
blocker chemical was not itself toxic. "It seems that the pups are
completely unable to ingest food without endogenous cannabinoids," she says.=
Helen Phillips

>From New Scientist magazine, 08 July 2000.
=A9 Copyright New Scientist, RBI Limited 2000
Forwarded by:
Arthur Livermore, Director
Falcon Cove Biology Laboratory
44500 Tide Avenue
Arch Cape, OR 97102