Update: Stem cells and autism

in the news

By Lisa Ackerman

As promised, we stated we would update you on the latest in stem cell research. We have written about Dr. Chez’s stem cell study in past TACA blogs (1.)

As a reminder, we know stem cell therapy offer treatment solutions for many other conditions (such as leukemia, lymphoma and other serious medical issues.) An FDA pilot study will look at stem cell therapy from cord blood & autism as a possible solution for treatment. The timeline for this pilot study is 1-2 years. Dr Chez’s study initial results should be out sometime before the end of 2014.

A new study is about to launch at Duke University with lead investigator Joanne Kurtzberg are trying to find out whether stem cells taken from frozen cord blood can improve autism symptoms (2.) Experts caution that the trial is premature. Here is what they had to say:

Early animal studies have shown that stem cells isolated from umbilical cord blood can stimulate cells in the spinal cord to regrow their myelin layers, and in doing so help restore connections with surrounding cells3. Autism is thought to result from impaired connectivity in the brain. Because of this, some groups of children with the disorder may benefit from a stem cell transplant, Kurtzberg says.
But others are skeptical of the approach. Autism is a complex disorder with many possible causes. Also, it’s unclear how stem cells derived from cord blood can improve connections in the brain. Given these important caveats, it’s too soon to conduct a test of this scale and investment, some experts say.
“It’s probably premature to run large trials without evidence that they have a therapeutic effect that [we] understand,” cautions Arnold Kriegstein, director of the Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at the University of California, San Francisco.

We will be watching new developments on both studies referenced in this blog and share the updates with our members. We are excited about the potential of stem cells for candidates who can benefit from this procedure. There is still so much to learn before this is a readily accessible, insurance paid procedure for those in need.



1) https://tacanowblog.com/2012/10/08/stem-cell-update-in-the-news/ and https://tacanowblog.com/2012/09/05/stem-cells-and-autism/
2) http://sfari.org/news-and-opinion/news/2014/experts-balk-at-large-trial-of-stem-cells-for-autism

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