The Promise of Stem Cells to Help Children with Autism How stem cell therapy and controlling inflammation offer a brighter future for children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
I take great pleasure meeting many patients we help recover from serious injuries and ease symptoms of debilitating diseases so they can improve their lives through advanced stem cell therapy. In some cases, these patients report that after treatment they feel more energy — a sense of vitality they enjoyed in their youth.
But what about patients who are young children — some facing a future so uncertain that they may never even learn to talk, let alone enjoy a long rewarding life.
That's the pain all too many parents cope with when their children are diagnosed with autism, or more specifically, autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). This spectrum of neurological conditions is seen in young children who don't seem to develop normal social, communication and behavioral skills.
That's a vague description, I know, but that makes a diagnosis of ASD even more frustrating. Some children may function relatively well, but not make friends easily or demonstrate odd speech patterns. Others may not even be able to make eye contact or communicate at all, making the idea of going to school, let alone graduate and lead an independent life, seem impossible. It's not a rare condition, either. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, ASD now affects about 1 out of 54 children in the United States.
Research shows that the earlier treatment can begin, the better. And the evidence is growing that stem cell therapy can help alleviate the symptoms for many children who suffer from ASD. That's why I'm so pleased that our advanced stem cell therapies can help more children who suffer from ASD enjoy a much brighter future.
What is the scientific rationale behind using stem cells to treat autism?
Current therapies for autism mostly include medications such as SSRIs, anxiolytics and mood stabilizers. Although medications may decrease intensity and frequency of symptoms, they do not address the root causes of autistic disorders, which research shows can result from oxygen deprivation and intestinal inflammation.
The rationale behind treating autism with stem cells is that autism, and its degree of severity, has been significantly correlated to inflammatory and neuro-inflammatory cytokines. Intravenous administration of umbilical cord-derived stem cells has been shown in multiple clinical trials to reduce inflammation. Reducing inflammation in the autistic patient may alleviate symptoms of autism.
Parents of children with Autism report that after stem cell therapy they've seen improvement in:
- Cognitive ability
- Ability to focus — attention
- Receptive language
- Expressive language — can now speak in sentences and use phrases in context
- Understanding of the world — that food has to be cooked, the iPhone has to be charged
- More patience
- Plays with siblings and others
- Succeeding in school
- Immunity — they are not sick as often
- Fewer tantrums
- Less aggressive behavior
A dream come true
Here's one heartwarming story that reveals how stem cells offer new hope to parents of children with ASD. Back in June at age 19, Kenneth graduated from high school.
That may not seem like much of an accomplishment, but Kenneth was diagnosed with ASD at age two. When he was eight years old, his parents say he was still in diapers and struggled to even communicate, but that's when he started receiving stem cell treatments.
His parents report that stem cells made a big difference. His mother, Marty Kelley, noted improvement within days of his first treatment. And his father Donald Kelley said, "when you see that your child has been blessed with stem cell treatments and the improvement, it's just a dream come true."
No, it's not just a dream. It's based on science and research into how the body tries to heal itself naturally — using stem cells.
As Kenneth says about the treatments, "they put a little needle in, it's not too bad." That's a keen observation on another aspect of stem cell therapy — that it's a non-invasive procedure that poses little risk of side effects.
Controlling harmful inflammation throughout the body
Although scientists aren't sure exactly what causes ASD, our Chief Medical Officer Karolynn Halpert points out that these disorders are associated with the process of how the body modulates immune response and controls inflammation, but that "stem cells have the ability to communicate with the immune system and release anti-inflammatory factors that can help reduce brain inflammation (neuroinflammation)."
Dr. Halpert also explains that inflammation in the digestive system can also interfere with neurological function. Indeed, that phrase, gut feeling, isn't just an expression. Researchers have confirmed that the gut and the brain are linked in a gut-brain axis that creates complex interactions in neurological functioning in ways that are not fully understood.
Some research suggests that autistic spectrum disorders may cause a heightened level of inflammation throughout the gastrointestinal tract, which can aggravate symptoms. There is significant evidence, however, that inflammation is controlled by stem cells. That's why it helps promote healing and ease pain for patients we treat for a wide range of injuries such as TBI, and diseases such as autoimmune disorders, degenerative disc disease and many others — all that can cause too much harmful inflammation.
Helping children with advanced stem cell therapy
As Dr. Halpert points out, "stem cells help other cells signal each other more effectively — replacing cells in the digestive system and throughout the body to balance immune response and control inflammation to potentially help children with autistic symptoms improve thinking and cognitive function."
That's good news for ASD patients and their parents, especially with advanced stem cell therapy now available using our proprietary protocols to culture the most potent cells. These cells are harvested from donated umbilical cords, which are rich in a specific type of stem cell — mesenchymal stem cells. These cells are then screened for specific biomarkers that indicate high potency. Only cells that meet the criteria for high levels of potency are then reproduced into infusions that are given to patients — a non-invasive therapy that's like Kenneth describes — just a little needle.
As autistic spectrum disorder cases become more commonly diagnosed in children at younger ages, it's essential to identify these cases early so treatment can begin as soon as possible. It's clear that the earlier treatment begins, the more likely it is that these children can enjoy better lives in the years ahead.
So congratulations Kenneth on your recent graduation. You earned your diploma. Your parents are proud of you. I am, as well. You and other ASD patients are an inspiration for our entire team to help others like you not only graduate from school — but live a life filled with as much joy as possible.