Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Autism Therapy – Treating Autism with Stem Cells – Advantages, Information and Scientific Proof.

What is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD classified as neurodevelopmental disorders) is a neural development disorder characterized by impaired social interactions, communication difficulties, repetitive behaviours. The symptoms may contain different behaviour or features across these three areas. For some the symptoms may be mild and enable to lead an independent life, for some, the severe disability in using a spoken language or repetitive behaviours may cause huge difficulties in everyday life.

Usually, there are other medical conditions and challenges accompanied by autism such as sleep disorders, mood disorders, feeling of anxiety, intellectual disability, attention disorders, hyperactivity, ADHD, and more. The autism symptoms become apparent in the first two years of life. The information processed in the brain are affected by modifying how nerve cells connect and organise.  Autism is considered as a lifelong condition, but there is a new hope – now it is possible to treat autism with mesenchymal stem cells. 

What are Stem Cells and how they can help in autism treatment?

Stem Cells are unique biological cells that have the ability to become many different types of cells and can divide to produce more of the stem cells same type – they can replicate rapidly. They are vital in the body’s healing process. The discovery of stem cells in the umbilical cord has been a huge step in the stem cells reproductive medicine, as using the stem cells from the donor may not always be compatible, and using our own cells may be connected with duplication a genetic mistake. There is a huge potential in treating diseases previously recognized as untreatable, with stem cells.  


Which kind of Stem Cells are applicable in Autism Therapy?

The special stem cells used in autism treatment are cells that come from the human umbilical cord, Wharton’s Jelly. These stem cells are called allogeneic mesenchymal – mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). The umbilical cords are donated by moms after healthy births, and all are screened for bacterias and viruses due to the Stem Cells Bank Guidelines.

Mesenchymal Stem Cells from Wharton’s Jelly are ideal for autism treatment as the body does not recognize them as foreign. They also do not carry any risk of genetic disorders. These wonderful cells are able to differentiate into brain cells, neurons, and rebuild the brain areas, which do not function properly causing autism.


How do stem cells treat autism? What is the scientific proof that stem cells help in autism?

Stem cells are differentiating into cell types needed by the body – they “Scan” body tissues and spot places, where infections are, or some other cells are degenerated and need fixing –  neurons, oligodendrocytes, blood cells etc. Lost (broken, impaired) neuron connections in the brain are restored by new ones, new neuron connections are built, the brain reaction speeds up. Stem cells cause the improvement of synaptic transmission and allow you to oxygenate the brain better.

There have been several clinical trials run to prove the positive influence of mesenchymal stem cells therapy on autism treatment.

During the experiments, Stem cell administration was carried out both via intravenous and intrathecal infusions. According to the clinical trial authors, the cell treatment was safe, well tolerated without immediate or long-term side effects, and no allergic, immunological reactions or other serious adverse events were observed at the time of injection or during the whole follow-up period. What is most important, the cell transplantation showed efficacy; improvements were observed in visual, emotional and intellectual responses, body use, adaptation to change, fear or nervousness, non-verbal communication and activity level, as measured by Childhood Autism Rating Scale, as well as in lethargy/social withdrawal, stereotypic behavior, hyperactivity and inappropriate speech evaluated by the Aberrant Behavior Checklist.

Significant improvements were observed over a period of 6 months to 1 year (social interaction and emotions, impulse control, reading skills, tracing, recognition of all shapes and following commands, and hyperactivity).

Why are mesenchymal stem cells better for autism therapy than other stem cells?
  • MSCs from Wharton’s Jelly show reduced the incidence of GVHD- graft-versus-host disease
  • MSCs from the umbilical cord are more tolerant of tissue mismatches
  • Umbilical cord stem cells show a decreased risk of any transmissible viral infections
  • Preserved cord stem cells have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier
  • Wharton’s jelly stem cells are able to differentiate into neurons and other brain cells and tissues, which is vital in treating brain disorders – autism.
What are the advantages of mesenchymal stem cells autism therapy?
  • Easier contact with the treated child, they start observing objects, catch eye contact, improved attention
  • The fears of strong incentives are reduced (for example bright colours, noises)
  • Improvement of verbal & writing skills
  • Improved digestion, better nutrition tolerance
  • More control on self-behaviour, more polite behaviours.

Please note, that this therapy is available as a medical experiment, and a qualification process depends on meeting the criteria as well as a positive opinion of a bioethical committee. 

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