Umbilical Cord Blood Gives New Hope in Autism Research

An Autism Treatment Within Reach

Can you picture a world where autism is treatable? We may be closer to that than you think! A team of researchers is working to uncover how umbilical cord blood may improve the symptoms of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).1,2 Autism research today, using banked umbilical cord blood as the source for stem cells and other components that promote repair in the body, is shedding light on this potentially powerful treatment option.

 

Autism Spectrum Disorder Today

As an expecting parent, you have probably heard of autism or ASD; it remains a concern for many new parents. It is a puzzling developmental brain disorder that can have a wide range of symptoms, from mild behavioral challenges to severe disability.3,4 Diagnosis can be difficult, and it is estimated that ASD affects about 1 in 68 children in the United States.5 Today, there is no cure. Current therapies involve intervention services, such as helping the child learn to walk and talk, that rely on early detection and diagnosis. These services are supportive and work to control symptoms to improve the child’s development.4 New and promising research using umbilical cord blood as a treatment may hold the key.

Autism Clinical Trials Revealing the Potential of Umbilical Cord Blood

Joanne Kurtzberg, MD, of Duke University has conducted a clinical trial investigating  if umbilical cord blood cells can improve ASD symptoms in children.1,2 Dr. Kurtzberg has recently started recruiting for another trial in this same area. She is an international expert on stem cell therapy, and is a leader in research using banked cells as a treatment option for diseases.6,7 Dr. Kurtzberg has shown in past studies that cord blood can help repair the brain in both animals and humans.1,8 She suggests that it provides both stem cells and other components that promote healing in the body.7,8 The two clinical trials build on this past research and are focused on helping treat ASD symptoms.

Autism Research Begins

The first clinical trial, which was recently completed, used umbilical cord blood that was previously banked from the child with autism. Children aged two to six years old and diagnosed with ASD were recruited for this study. The aim of this trial was to determine if cord blood was safe to use in these children and observe any improvements in their symptoms over the course of a year. The team gave the children a single dose of cord blood cells through a needle in their vein (also known as an intravenous infusion) and observed the effects. This study laid the groundwork for future studies as it proved that cord blood was safe when given as an infusion,7 and identified some specific symptoms that may be impacted.

The Study Continues

Based on the findings from the first study, the second phase of Dr. Kurtzberg’s research has begun under a new clinical trial. Much like the first study, children aged two to seven years old diagnosed with ASD will receive a single dose of cord blood cells by intravenous infusion. This study will use banked cells from the children, if available, and will also give some children cells from unrelated donors that closely match. The team will be looking to see if these children show an improvement in social communication skills after six months as well as looking for other behavior changes during the trial.2 If you have a child diagnosed with ASD and are interested in learning more about this clinical trial, the research team is currently looking for children to participate. The decision to join a clinical trial is personal, but please be sure to speak with your healthcare provider about this decision. You can also reach out to LifebankUSA Medical Affairs at medicalaffairs@lifebankusa.com with questions on clinical trials.

Stem Cell Research and the Future of Medicine

Clinical trials like these emphasize the importance of banking your child’s stem cells and why it should be considered an investment in the health of your family and their future. Medicine is constantly evolving. Stem cell research continues to uncover new and exciting treatment options for a wide spectrum of conditions that have no cure today. Clinical trials studying umbilical cord blood as a treatment for stroke,9 cerebral palsy,10 and Type I Diabetes11 are already underway.

Choosing to bank your child’s cord blood and placental blood  stem cells will empower you to have an active role in your child’s healthcare in the future. If you have any questions about current trials or want more information on the use of cord blood for clinical trials, please call us at 1-877-543-3226.