June 13, 2014

Autism affects 1 in 88 children and is on the rise. Currently, more than 2 million Americans have been diagnosed with autism. Though discussions on the causes of the disease can be quite heated and controversial at times, almost everyone is on the same page, in the desire to find a cure or treatment of this disease.

Could using cord blood as a treatment to help improve the symptoms of autism be a reality in the near future?

Currently, a study is being conducted to measure the impact and effects of umbilical cord blood on a child diagnosed with autism1 . The 55-week study is made up of 30 children, ranging in age from 2 to 7. Of these, 15 subjects receive an infusion of autologous (his or her own) umbilical cord blood and the other 15 receiving a placebo.

The point of this study is to observe the effectiveness of a child receiving his or her own cord blood to measure changes in language and behavior in a child diagnosed with autism. This two-phase study will conclude in August 2014.

Also researching this field, Duke University was recently awarded a $15 million grant to conduct a five-year study2 that evaluates umbilical cord blood cell use in the treatment of autism, stroke, cerebral palsy and other brain disorders, diseases which currently have no cure. The hope with this study is to develop cell-based treatments using umbilical cord blood that can repair cognitive function in those with the diseases.

This initial phase of the study will be made up of 20 children who have been diagnosed with autism and whose own cord blood has been privately stored in a cord blood bank. The entire project will include 390 children and adults diagnosed with autism, 100 children with cerebral palsy and 90 adults who suffered a stroke. If the study is effective, it could recognize treatments for use in clinical trials in the future, which could potentially improve the quality of life for millions of children and adults by reducing their disabilities.

Research in the field of cord blood treatments is exciting and provides hope for many families who have a loved one afflicted with any of the diseases that are currently treatable and the potential for treatments of so many more diseases and disorders in the future.

1. Sutter Pediatric Neurology (2013) Autologous Cord Blood Stem Cells for Autism; Sacramento, California, United States, 95816, Principal Investigator: Michael Chez, MD. ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01638819. Retrieved from http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01638819

2. Duke Medicine Office of News & Communications. (2014). $15 Million Award to Go Toward Exploring New Treatments for Autism, Other Brain Disorders [Press release]. Retrieved from http://psychiatry.duke.edu/news/news-archive/marcus-foundation-grant

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