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Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2001 Nov;79(11):942-5.

The role of the placenta in variability of fetal exposure to cocaine and cannabinoids: a twin study.

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Department of Pediatrics and Research Institute, The Hospital for Sick Children, The University of Toronto, ON, Canada.

Erratum in

  • Can J Physiol Pharmacol 2001Dec;79(12):1044.


There is wide variability in the reported adverse fetal effects of cocaine and cannabinoids. The causes of this variability are largely unknown. We hypothesized that variability in placental handling of drugs affect fetal exposure. We used twin pregnancies as a paradigm to address the role of the placenta in this variability. We analyzed hair or meconium samples taken from dizygotic and monozygotic twins exposed in utero to illicit drugs. Out of 12 pairs, 5 had negative levels in both twins, and seven pairs of twins had chemical evidence of fetal exposure to cocaine (n = 5) or cannabinoids (n = 2). The one known monozygotic pair of twins had almost identical levels of cocaine. In contrast, the six dizygotic pairs had large disparities in either cocaine or cannabinoid concentrations. In three of these six dizygotic pairs, levels of cocaine (n = 2) or canabinoids (n = 1) were undetectable in one twin while positive in the other. Given that twins are theoretically exposed to similar maternal drug levels, our findings suggest that the placenta may have a major role in modulating the amounts of drug reaching the fetus.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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