A recent study has shown that autologous cord blood infusions are a safe and effective treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder. The study was a single-center phase 1 open-label trial.
What is autism spectrum disorder?
Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder. Children with this disorder have characteristic difficulties in communication and interaction with other people. Repetitive behavior and thought patterns are common. Autistic children have a limited number of interests. ASD is typically diagnosed in the first two years of life. In its more severe forms, the disorder affects the child’s ability to function socially in the home and at school.
How is autism spectrum disorder (ASD) treated?
Early intervention can help the child make the most of their abilities and develop new skills. It is noteworthy, however, that the disorder is a “spectrum” and as such, there is no single treatment that works for everyone. For children with autism spectrum disorder, healthcare professionals work closely with the child’s family to develop an individualized program consisting of social services, behavioral therapy, and medications to address aggression, irritability, hyperactivity, attention deficit, and anxiety.
Cell Therapy from Umbilical Cord Blood
A single-center phase 1 open-label trial has shown that a single infusion of autologous cord blood is a safe, effective, and feasible therapy for young children with ASD. Cord blood is a rich source of powerful stem cells. The study has shown that cell therapy has the potential to alleviate some of the symptoms of ASD by modulating the inflammation in the child’s brain.
The study enrolled 25 children between the ages of 2 and 6 (average age 4.6 years). All study participants had a confirmed diagnosis of ASD and their cord blood had been banked at the time of birth. The children underwent a battery of functional and behavioral testing before autologous cord blood infusion and then 6 and 12 months following the infusion. The assessment revealed that no adverse events occurred in the 12-month period, indicating the therapy was well tolerated and safe. Parents reported an improvement in social skills, behavior, and other symptoms following the infusion. Clinically, standardized measures such as eye tracking, response to social stimuli, and expressive vocabulary were used to track progress. Children whose nonverbal IQ was higher at baseline showed greater improvement in the first six months. These results are promising and will serve as a baseline for future studies.