Growing evidence shows that regenerative medicine and stem cells may offer a promising new approach to treating autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).
Communication and social behavior disorders and repetitive behaviors characterize ASDs. Although their pathophysiology is unclear, evidence suggests that immune system dysfunction and neuroinflammation begin in the prenatal period and cause neurodevelopmental damage (1).
Regenerative medicine is a new field that uses the body’s cells to repair and regenerate tissue. Stem cells are a type of cell that can divide and turn into other types of cells. They can self-renew, which means they can make copies of themselves. Through the targeted application of stem cells at the point of treatment, the stem cells can differentiate into beneficial, regenerative cells.
Stem cells have anti-inflammatory, neuromodulatory, and neuro-regenerative properties. These properties make stem cells potential candidates for the treatment of ASDs.
Several clinical trials are underway to test stem cell therapy’s safety and efficacy for ASDs. Early results are promising, but additional research is needed.
If you or your child has an ASD, talk to your doctor about the possibility of using regenerative medicine and stem cells for treatment.
Benefits both in biochemical markers of neuroinflammation and in scales measuring the severity of ASD symptoms (including those related to language, social communication, repetitive behavior, and hyperactivity) have been found in patients aged 2 and 15 years followed up for up to 18-21 months, none of the studies reporting undesirable severe effects related to the intervention (2-6).
1. Liu Q, Chen MX, Sun L, Wallis CU, Zhou JS, Ao LJ, et al. Rational use of mesenchymal stem cells in the treatment of autism spectrum disorders. World J Stem Cells. 2019;11(2):55-72. doi: 10.4252/wjsc.v11.i2.55.
2. Dawson G, Sun JM, Davlantis KS, Murias M, Franz L, Troy J, et al. Autologous Cord Blood Infusions Are Safe and Feasible in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Results of a Single-Center Phase I Open-Label Trial. Stem Cells Transl Med. 2017;6(5):1332-1339. doi: 10.1002/sctm.16-0474.
3. Murias M, Major S, Compton S, Buttinger J, Sun JM, Kurtzberg J, et al. Electrophysiological Biomarkers Predict Clinical Improvement in an Open-Label Trial Assessing Efficacy of Autologous Umbilical Cord Blood for Treatment of Autism. Stem Cells Transl Med. 2018;7(11):783-791. doi: 10.1002/sctm.18-0090.
4. Riordan NH, Hincapié ML, Morales I, Fernández G, Allen N, Leu C, et al. Allogeneic Human Umbilical Cord Mesenchymal Stem Cells for the Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children: Safety Profile and Effect on Cytokine Levels. Stem Cells Transl Med. 2019;8(10):1008-1016. doi: 10.1002/sctm.19-0010.
5. Pistollato F, Forbes-Hernández TY, Calderón Iglesias R, Ruiz R, Elexpuru Zabaleta M, Cianciosi D, et al. Pharmacological, non-pharmacological and stem cell therapies for the management of autism spectrum disorders: A focus on human studies. Pharmacol Res. 2020;152:104579. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2019.104579.
6. Sun JM, Dawson G, Franz L, Howard J, McLaughlin C, Kistler B, et al. Infusion of human umbilical cord tissue mesenchymal stromal cells in children with autism spectrum disorder. Stem Cells Transl Med. 2020;9(10):1137–46. doi: 10.1002/sctm.19-0434.
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