Claudia Silver

I am an undergraduate researcher completing Honors in the Major in Dr. Debra Fadool’s Laboratory.

Does prenatal exposure to cannabidiol influence changes in olfactory sensory neurons or success of birth?

Authors: Claudia Silver, Dr. Debra Fadool
Student Major: Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences
Mentor: Dr. Debra Fadool
Mentor’s Department: Biological Sciences
Mentor’s College: College of Arts and Sciences


Recently, the use of products containing cannabis-derived compounds has seen a significant increase in both popularity and usage worldwide. The hemp plant Cannabis sativa contains hundreds of phytocannabinoids. Of primary interest are Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of Cannabis, and CBD (cannabidiol), the major non-psychoactive component of Cannabis (Mackie, 2008). CBD is known to exhibit pharmacological effects and is being investigated for its therapeutic treatment of numerous issues like anxiety, depression, and nausea (Zuardi, 2008). Its implications in treating nausea have caused an increase in individuals using CBD during pregnancy (Ochiai, 2020). Little is currently known about the effects of CBD on fetal development.

It is currently unknown if CBD can affect the olfactory system, which itself has endocannabinoid receptors. The development of the olfactory system can be used as a model system to infer whether mice have developed properly (López-Mascaraque, 2002). Olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs), which are the receptor cells for smell, pass sensory information to the brain through mega-synapses called glomeruli (Imamura, 2016). The number of M72 OSNs is affected by dietary and developmental conditions (Fadool 2004, Thiebaud 2014). CBD may therefore have an effect on development that will be observable through changes in glomerular anatomy.

Various developmental defects can alter litter size, pup weight, maternal gestation weight, and fertility (Moon, 2006). THC reduces the rate of birth success, independent of any developmental defects (Dong, 2018). CBD usage during pregnancy may therefore adversely affect these aspects of fetal development (litter size, pup weight, maternal gestation weight, fertility).

Keywords: Cannabidiol, pregnancy, olfactory system