Study of the Immunological Response to Diacetylmorphine and Methadone Using Avian Model

Saturday, February 13, 2016
Beckley Miller, Marist College, Poughkeepsie, NY
The prenatal effects of heroin and methadone are of particular importance due to prescription of methadone to pregnant heroin addicts to counteract the effects on fetal development. Heroine is classified as a teratogen, however, there is a shortage of data on heroin or methadone’s effects on the fetal immune system. Immunological effects of methadone and heroin exposure were investigated using an avian model (Gallus domesticus). Pathogen free chick embryos were injected with heroin or methadone at doses based on levels commonly found in pregnant women. Following 20 days of incubation, blood samples from a heart puncture were collected from all embryos. White blood cell differential and partial blood count hematological tests were performed. For statistical analysis, SPSS ANOVA statistical package was used to calculate hematological differences between treatment groups. Significant differences in thrombocyte and white blood cell content were found in the treatment group exposed to the high heroin dosage (6.25mg/kg) as compared to the control group. Significant increases in lymphocyte content were observed in all heroin exposed treatment groups as compared to the controls.  In all methadone exposed chicks, there were significantly more thrombocytes. The increase in thrombocytes could be attributed to an increase in blood clotting from gross brain bleeds, consistent with observations of exposed avian embryos. The increase in lymphocyte and white blood cell content can be attributed to an increased fetal immune response. Detected immunological changes suggest possible harmful effects on developing organisms.