The rise of autism cases today is quite alarming. What was once a 1 in 10,000 back in the 1980’s has become 1 in 68 last year according to CDC . While autism is generally believed to be hereditary, other underlying causes of autism are still being studied, especially in those cases where the condition does not run in the family.
Treatments have been revolutionary to some extent, as more and more studies are made to help understand those who suffer with this disability. I say revolutionary because from consenting to LSD medication and electric shock, to pain and punishment, to behavioral therapy, treating and caring for individuals with autism have gone a long way since.
Enter the era of science advancement—where remarkable discoveries in treating numerous diseases have been made. One such treatment is the stem cell therapy which has shown promising results, especially in bone marrow transplants. Continuous studies are being done to see the efficacy of stem cell therapy in neurodegenerative diseases and other conditions like blood-related illnesses (leukemia) or heart ailments. That said, many are hopeful that stem cell therapy can be a cure for complex developmental disability, also known as Autism.
But can it really cure Autism? According to Cellmedicine.com , the use of stem cells in autism treatment (Mesenchymal stem cells, to be exact) can regulate the immune system and help reverse intestinal inflammatory conditions that is present in children with autism. They have seen improvement in their patients treated in their facilities and have even published the biological basis of the treatment method in the Journal of Translational Medicine: Stem Cell Therapy for Autism .
On that note, a team at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, was set to launch a $40 million clinical trial to explore stem cells from umbilical cord blood as a treatment for autism last year. Although the trial is still in its premature stages, Joanne Kurtzberg claims that in early animal studies, the stem cells from a newborn’s umbilical cord blood can stimulate cells in the spinal cord for myelin layer re-growth, which then helps restore the impaired connectivity in the brain found in Autism patients.
However, Arnold Kriegstein, director of the Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at the University of California, San Francisco is skeptic about this large-scale trial treatment. “It’s probably premature to run large trials without evidence that they have a therapeutic effect that [we] understand,” he says. Although, some parents who travelled to clinics that offer cord blood stem cell treatments for autism outside of United States (because Stem Cell Therapy for Autism is actually illegal in the U.S.), reports (albeit informally) that they see signs of improvement in their children with autism. (Source)
While it is still much too early to claim that Stem Cell Therapy can cure Autism because the studies are non-conclusive yet, many families with loved ones who suffer autism find it as a “ray of hope” to consider for the treatment of this condition. But just like all the other treatments and therapies applied in Autism patients, stem cell therapy still has no existing strong scientific evidence that confirms it can cure Autism. Therefore, we all should still be cautious before attempting to apply this to our loved ones suffering with this condition.