Treatment for autism is an increasingly important pursuit, as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates:
- 1 in 59 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) [Read article]
- Autism occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. [Read article]
- Studies in Asia, Europe, and North America have identified ASD to have a prevalence rate of between 1% and 2%. [Data table]
With autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affecting between 1-2% of the population, the condition is becoming of increasing importance and a treatment for autism is becoming a highly sought-after medical breakthrough.
In this article:
- No Cure for Autism Yet
- What Is Stem Cell Therapy?
- What Causes Autism?
- How Can Stem Cell Therapy Help Combat Autism?
- What Is the Stem Cell for Autism Process Like?
- Are There Risks Involved?
- How Close Are We to This Treatment for Autism?
- How Much Does Stem Cell Therapy Cost for Autism?
- Enrolling in a Stem Cell Trial for Autism
Stem Cell Treatment for Autism
Although we are still in the very early stages of research regarding the use of stem cells for autism, promising clinical data is beginning to be released.
No Cure for Autism Yet
While therapy, some diets, and other techniques all show promise for mitigating the effects of autism (and some swear by them), researchers have not yet come up with a “cure” for the disease. That is to say, the scientific and medical community cannot offer a definitive treatment that relieves adults or children of the condition.
However, with emerging stem cell therapies, it looks as though a real, lasting treatment for autism may be on the horizon.
To understand this new approach to autism treatment, it’s first necessary to understand stem cell therapy in its own right. Similarly, it is critical to understand autism, its theoretical causes, how stem cells could ameliorate them, and what the future looks like regarding this prospective approach.
What Is Stem Cell Therapy?
Stem cell treatments are complex, and in the case of many conditions, still theoretical. However, scientists do have a firm understanding of what stem cells are and how they work. In a nutshell, these “master cells” are undifferentiated, having the ability to turn into a wide variety of more specialized cells.
Hematopoietic stem cells, for instance, give rise to every kind of blood stem cell in our body – which is dozens. Mesenchymal stem cells are another stem cell type. This type of stem cell has an exceptional capacity to reduce inflammation, reduce fibrosis (scarring), and positively impact the immune system.
Other stem cells control other bodily tissues. These master cells are found in the heart, teeth, liver, skin, fat, and many other tissue types. With cutting-edge scientific techniques, researchers can now force those stem cells to revert to an even less differentiated state, forming what is called induced pluripotent stem cells. These unique cells can become any tissue in the human body. If physicians could inject them into affected areas, they could (theoretically) rebuild our tissues from the ground up by repairing damaged body parts.
Stem cell therapy for autism, therefore, proposes to “rewrite” the bodily systems causing autism. To learn more about the different types of stem cells, watch this video from BioInformant.
What Causes Autism?
The causes of autism are still poorly understood and disagreed upon, but research does point to two key agents:
- Reduced oxygen levels in specific parts of the brain
- Chronic inflammation in the gut, caused by the immune system malfunction
Other potential causes include Fragile X syndrome, brain tumors, brain swelling, missing metabolic enzymes, and measles in the mother during pregnancy.
How Can Stem Cell Therapy Help Combat Autism?
Whatever the case, stem cells appear to be a promising treatment for autism. For instance, they can replace malfunctioning gut cells with healthy ones, and since stem cells can replicate indefinitely, the problem would be unlikely to recur. The same may prove true for brain cells, enzyme and hormone production systems, and more.
Additionally, certain stem cell types can reduce inflammation, and therefore, possibly, autism.
While the terminology is a bit dense, for those interested in the scientific literature, the following article is an insightful read: Stem Cell Therapy in Autism – Journal of Translational Medicine.
What Is the Stem Cell for Autism Process Like?
Stem cells for autism are not a fully understood process, but general stem cell treatment does have a basic sequence of events:
- Physicians either harvest stem cells from the patient (autologous) or take them from another patient or a blood bank (allogeneic).
- They prepare the stem cells for injection into the patient, separating out the meaningful cells and combining them with hormones and growth factors, as necessary.
- Physicians inject or infuse the stem cells into the patient.
From there, doctors and parents watch the patient to note any improvement. In many cases, the patient needs multiple doses of stem cells to get levels high enough that the cells can do their work in affected areas. Over time, these cells gravitate toward the affected area, instinctively “fixing” the malfunctioning systems.
Are There Risks Involved?
As with any other medical process, stem cell autism recovery does bring some risks. Some people have reactions to the injectable fluids, as they often make use of preservatives by necessity. Other patients reject allogeneic (donated stem cells), targeting them as invaders.
Worse, some patients get attacked by donor stem cells, causing a variety of unpleasant and potentially fatal symptoms in what’s known as graft-versus-host disease.
Overall, however, many people find the success levels high enough to warrant risking these negative outcomes. Especially in cases where autism is so overwhelming that it completely compromises the family or child, it may be worth it.
How Close Are We to This Treatment for Autism?
Thankfully, the research community has heard – and responded – to the calls for an autism clinical trial involving stem cells.
Stories demonstrating the power of stem cells for autism – both allogeneic and autologous – have prompted research institutions such as Duke University to undertake trials determining the widespread use of this treatment for autism in the future. Led by the world-renowned researcher Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, Duke University Medical Center is conducting clinical trials to evaluate the capacity of autologous (self-derived) and allogeneic (donor-derived) umbilical cord blood for improving symptom associated with autism spectrum disorder.
Thus far, Dr. Kurtzberg’s team has completed a clinical trial titled “Autologous Umbilical Cord Blood Infusion for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder.” The team is now conducting a Phase 2 clinical trial that has enrolled 165 participants, titled “Cord Blood Infusion for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
At least two other clinical trials have also been exploring the use of cord blood stem cells as a potential treatment approach for autism, including the following trials:
- Autologous Cord Blood Stem Cells for Autism
- Safety and Efficacy of Stem Cell Therapy in Patients With Autism
Furthermore, at least 19 additional trials are exploring the use of other stem cell types for the treatment of autism. These clinical trials can be reviewed at the global clinical trial registry site, ClinicalTrials.gov.
How Much Does Stem Cell Therapy Cost for Autism?
Parents can also explore stem cell clinics that offer treatments without the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, although insurance companies typically don’t cover these medical expenses. Unfortunately, most of the research conducted so far has focused on autistic children, leaving treatment options for adults more limited. For adult patients with autism, medical clinics may prove more accessible.
On average, stem cell treatments for autism cost USD $12,000 – 18,000. Travel costs are often incurred as well, because most treatments are conducted outside the U.S. in countries which permit the expansion of stem cell populations within a lab prior to administering them to a patient.
Examples of countries whose regulatory policies allow stem cell expansion include Mexico, the Caymen Islands, the Bahama Islands, and India, and others.
Enrolling in a Stem Cell Trial for Autism
Several medical clinics that offer stem cells treatments for autism also conduct formal clinical trials. In one such example, the world-renowned Stem Cell Institute in Panama conducted a clinical trial titled “Allogeneic Umbilical Cord Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapy for Autism,” which it completed August 2017. The same clinic offers direct access to stem cell treatments for autism, which it describes at this page.
Its five-day stem cell treatment protocol for autism involves a physical examination and blood testing on Day 1, followed by intravenous infusions of human umbilical cord tissue-derived allogeneic mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) on Days 2-5.
Those who hope to enroll their children in a clinical trial should speak with their pediatricians about the possibilities.
GIOSTAR’s Stem Cell Treatment for Autism
GIOSTAR is another stem cell treatment provider that offers stem cell treatments for autism spectrum disorders. With locations around the world, including the U.S., Mexico, India, Brazil, Thailand, and U.A.E., GIOSTAR has treated a global population of patients.
In alignment with what we believe at BioInformant, GIOSTAR’s goal is to offer cutting-edge, extensively researched stem cell therapy options designed to rejuvenate and improve a patient’s quality of life.
Click here to Schedule a Consultation or ask GIOSTAR a question.
Stem Cells for Autism
Whatever the approach, take caution. While these treatments show considerable promise, they have not existed for long enough to gather the amount of anecdotal and empirical evidence that is needed to prove them completely safe.
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