I Mix Fish and Cannabis to suggest a research proposal.

While listening to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Science Show on Saturday last, I was interested by the interview at the AAAS with the editor-in-chief of Science, Dr Marcia McNutt, and researcher Barbara Block on the effects of crude oil on fish heart rhythms  as found in research published in Science this week (1), which suggested that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were the problem.    They said

“The authors found that the crude oil altered the normal function of cardiac muscles through two clear mechanisms. First, it binds at potassium channel sites that play a critical role in resetting electrochemical potential to properly pace cardiac action. And second, it interferes with calcium release transients that are vital for heart muscle contraction. Together these cardiac toxic mechanisms impact regulation of cellular excitability, potentially leading to life-threatening arrhythmias.Science was interested in pursuing this study because it shows in an ecologically relevant species not only that oil is cardiotoxic to fishes but the mechanism by which this toxicity acts reveals the susceptibility of the vertebrate heart to the highly toxic compounds present within the oil that we continue to distribute widely around the globe….the potassium channels being impacted by oil in this vertebrate are similar to the human potassium channel of the same type which is already known to be very sensitive to drugs…”

and went on to suggest that  a range of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons PAHs)  is found in common atmospheric pollution in big cities , and that our  inhalation of them is an effective way of getting them to our blood stream and thus our hearts.

Reading New Scientist, 22 February 2014, I came across an article “Cannabis kills without other drugs – or guns”  (p.14.)  It reports that researchers found that 2 of 15 people whose deaths were linked to cannabis use died of cardiac arrhythmias with no predisposing factors, and states that

“It is not clear how cannabis could trigger arrhythmias.”

Well, burning plant matter is a rich source of aromatics.   I bet someone is already trying to fund the research:  do dung-fired cooking in the Third World, pollution in big cities, and inhaling plant smoke all increase risk of arrhythmias by the pathway Brett et al 2014 suggest ?

(1) Crude Oil Impairs Cardiac Excitation-Contraction Coupling in Fish     Fabien Brette,    Ben Machado,    Caroline Cros,    John P. Incardona,    Nathaniel L. Scholz,    Barbara A. Block   Science 14 February 2014: Vol. 343 no. 6172 pp. 772-776  DOI: 10.1126/science.1242747

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