Stem Cell Therapy for AutismStem Cell Therapy for Autism

Stem cells, also called master cells of the body, are often considered a great option for the treatment of various diseases including metabolic, immune, and genetic disorders. When these stem cells are injected into a patient to replace or repair damaged cells as part of a treatment for a particular disease, this is known as stem cell therapy.

Aside from its known treatment applications, lately, the potential of stem cell therapy for autism has been widely discussed. So, does stem cell therapy help autistic people? Is there sufficient data to support this claim? Let’s discuss this further.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is often broadly defined by symptoms such as persistent deficits in social interaction and communication across multiple contexts. ASD affects more than 1% of the general public and is characterized by two core symptoms: one is impaired social communication and the other is restricted, repetitive types of behavior, activities, and/or interests.

Over the years, researchers have been working on ways to treat this condition and improve the lives of autistic people.

Stem Cell Therapy For Autism - Does it Help?

Stem cell therapy research among patients with leukemia has shown that stem cells help reduce leukemia-induced inflammation and improve the overall immune system.

In general, for patients undergoing stem cell therapy, the cord blood stem cells (or fetal stem cells) work in three important stages

  1. Secreting neurotrophic factors: factors that help in the growth of nervous tissues
  2. Immunomodulation: moderating the immune system to improve its disease-fighting capabilities
  3. Suppression of pro-inflammatory processes: reducing inflammation-causing factors, and thereby reducing disease-related inflammation

Since autism is associated with symptoms such as inflammation and immune system problems, similar to leukemia, perhaps, stem cell therapy could be a potential treatment option for autism. Taking this thought forward, those in support of stem cell therapy for autism believe that injecting stem cells into an autistic person might lead to a considerable reduction in inflammation and improvement in characteristics of autism. However, there is no scientific research to support these claims.

Stages in Stem Cell Therapy Treatment for Autism

There are no established treatment guidelines for stem cell therapy for autism. However, the general stem cell therapy treatment stages are as follows:

  1. Evaluation and pre-treatment checks
  2. Collection - Stem cells can be collected from the donor via the placenta, umbilical cord blood, or bone marrow. Another method is the collection of the stem cells directly from the patient’s own bone marrow, cerebrospinal fluid, and fat. However, this is an invasive, and often painful method.
  3. Cultivation - Following collection, stem cells are cultivated or grown in a laboratory for a few weeks.
  4. Injection - The cultured stem cells are then injected into the patient’s spinal canal or veins. For this procedure, the patient needs to be hospitalized and anesthetized. Depending on the hospital and the requirement of the patient, multiple stem cell injections might be administered over a specified number of days, weeks, or months. This too is an invasive procedure and can be painful.
  5. Follow-Up - each treatment session is accompanied by follow-up appointments.

Stem Cell Therapy for Autism - Cost Considerations

The cost of stem cell therapy can run into lakhs. However, if you bank your baby’s cord blood stem cells with a prestigious and trustworthy stem cell bank like LifeCell, you’ll get the benefit of financial assistance from the bank to cover stem cell therapy costs of up to 20 lakhs.

Stem Cell Therapy For Autism - Final Note

There has been pre-clinical evidence highlighting the potential benefit and important advances for the use of stem cell therapy for those with an autism spectrum disorder. However, such evidence alone is not sufficient. There is a need for more complete, exhaustive medical investigations as well as large clinical trials in order to claim definitive results. In the meantime, going by the success rate of the use of stem cell therapies in the treatment of various disorders, it is safe to assume that there is a high likelihood of achieving a similar kind of success for the treatment of autism too.