Can stem cells be used to treat autism?


April is Autism Awareness Month. So can autism be treated with stem cells? Let’s take a look at the research. 

What is autism?

Autism isn’t an illness. People with the condition can live a full and enjoyable life and the experience is different for everyone. Autistic people often act in a different way to others. It might be a bit more challenging for them to communicate and interact, and to understand the way other people think and feel. 

Loud noises and bright lights can make autistic people feel stressed, and everyday unfamiliar situations and social events can make them uncomfortable. It can take a while longer to understand information. Some autistic people find comfort in repetitive behaviour. It often occurs along with conditions like ADHD, anxiety, depression, and epilepsy. 

Basically, autism is different for everyone. 

What causes autism? It’s one of those medical mysteries. Nobody knows, so far, why it happens, although there’s some evidence it can run in families. It is absolutely not caused by vaccines, bad parenting, or a bad diet, and it doesn’t affect a person’s intelligence. 

How can stem cell therapy be used to treat autism?

Are stem cells used to treat autism?

As revealed by the USA’s National Library of Medicine website in 2018, in an article talking about ASDs or Autism Spectrum Disorders. “Due to neurobiologic changes underlying ASD development, cell-based therapies have been proposed and applied to ASDs. Indeed, stem cells show specific immunologic properties, which make them promising candidates in ASD treatment.”

On the face of it, this looks like good news. But as the report concludes, just five clinical trials had taken place at the time of writing, each formulated differently so it’s not possible to draw firm conclusions.  This ‘will require further examinations’, with ‘more complete and exhaustive investigations and large trials’ needed in order to ‘claim definitive results’

Autism treatment using stem cell therapy is also a subject of discussion for Autism Parenting magazine. Their reporter mentions a study by Price (2020). They reveal that because some studies blame immune dysfunction as the cause and effect of autism spectrum disorder, the stem cell therapy approach for treating autism might have some potential. But again, so far it remains a hypothesis, not scientific fact. 

How effective is stem cell therapy for autism?

While stem cell therapy is already recognised as a possible approach to supporting those with autism, the simple answer is we don’t know yet, because we know so little about why people develop autism in the first place. It could be down to genetic immune dysfunction, it could be laid at the feet of inflammatory stimuli, it might be something else altogether. While the signs for umbilical cord blood and autism are looking hopeful, we need to wait for proof. 

We’re hopeful, since stem cells have the unique ability to influence the human metabolism and immune systems, as well as restoring damaged cells and tissues, including the organs and entire systems. Watch this space for new research. We’ll report on any new results as soon as they’re announced. 

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