Stem cell treatment could lower swelling levels and show whether autism is an autoimmune disease.
A clinical trial being conducted by the Sutter Neuroscience Institute in Sacramento, California to address if autism is an autoimmune disease began gathering participants for an experimental stem cell therapy for autism. The institute is seeking 30 autistic children between ages 2 and 7 with cord blood banked at the privately-run Cord Blood Registry, located about 100 miles west of the institute. A clinical trial, with 37 total participants between ages 3 and 12 years old, has already been completed in China. The researchers associated with Beike Biotechnology in Shenzhen, the sponsors of the study, have not yet published any papers from that the trial, which used stem cells from donated cord blood. there are Mexican researchers looking for children for another kind of autism stem cell trial that will produce cells from the participant’s fat tissue.
Besides these officially registered trials, there are many more undocumented stem cell therapy treatments happening for clients who are willing to pay enough. Michael Chez, a pediatric neurologist and lead investigator of the study at Sutter says “Our research is important because many people are going to foreign countries and spending a lot of money on therapy that may not be valid.” He adds that, “One of our exploratory goals will be to look at inflammatory markers in cells.”
The study’s principal objective will be assessing changes in patients’ speaking and understanding of vocabulary. Not all stem cell scientists who study neurodevelopmental diseases are ready to invest great hope that the autism stem cell trial will succeed. “I wish I could tell you I’m optimistic about the end results,” says James Carroll, a pediatric neurologist at the Georgia Health Sciences University in Augusta who began a clinical trial two years ago to better understand how stem cell therapy affects patients with cerebral palsy. “But so far we have not seen any kind of miraculous recovery in our cerebral palsy patients. I would be delighted if that changes.”
Other studies by Dr. Benjamin Gesundheit, a pediatric hematologist oncologist with experience in bone marrow transplantation and experimental cell therapy and a featured speaker at Icare4autism’s Global Jerusalem Conference in August has shown support for the presence of specific immune markers, and the presence of a family history of autoimmune diseases that points to the possibility of an autoimmune etiology. Due to the potent anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory and regenerative capacities of mesenchymal stromal stem cells (MSC) and the cumulative clinical experience confirming the safety and efficacy of MSC treatment for various clinical conditions, MSC might open new therapeutic horizons for children with ASD.