Cord blood stem cell trial finds improvements in autism symptoms

Parents of 25 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) report that their children showed reduced signs of ASD after a recent stem cell treatment. The children received infusions of their own stem cells from banked umbilical cord blood as part of a clinical trial.

ASD-related behaviour reduction

The children (aged between two and five years)  had no apparent lasting adverse effects after one year. Reduction in ASD-related behaviour was measured by questioning the parents and by clinician-administered tests.

A similar study led by Dr Michael Chez, director of Paediatric Neurology at the Sutter Institute, California in 2016 involved 30 children and reported a similar percentage of improvement.

Dr Chez discusses his findings in the video below and outlines the reasons for his optimism that cord blood has the potential to treat a range of childhood disorders.

Next steps for cord blood autism treatments

The team involved in the latest trial, led by Dr Geraldine Dawson and Dr Joanne Kurtzberg, are now running a second, larger trial on cord blood autism treatments. The double-blind, placebo-controlled trial will involve 165 autistic children aged between two and eight years old and will be overseen by the US Food and Drug Administration.

 Cord blood potential

Cord blood stem cells can be collected from the umbilical cord and placenta. These cells can be stored in cord blood banks for future use in cellular therapies or blood stem cell transplantation.

Previous research has shown that cord blood stem cells can help reduce inflammation and signal cells to help repair damaged brain areas. While there is a hypothesis that some signs of autism are due to inflammatory processes in the brain, autism spectrum disorders are complex and may have many possible causes, including differences in the development of neuronal connections or mitochondrial function. Blood stem cells cannot replace neurons, although they may be able to enter the brain after infusion into the blood.


stem cell preservation

BSc (Hons) Microbiology

Chief Executive Officer | Biovault Family

Biovault Family CEO, Kate Sneddon, joined Biovault in July 2009 and became Chief Executive Officer in 2016. As health industry professional her experience includes working as a microbiologist and leader at GSK for over 10 years. Her expertise in cord blood banking has been recognised in her awards, features in Parliamentary Review and Parents Guide to Cord Blood, as well as contributions to research with UCL and others.

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