A groundbreaking stem cell research is giving hope for families with children with autism. The study, which wrapped its first phase at Duke University, is showing the potentials of stem cell as an autism treatment.
Experts used the children's own umbilical blood cord in easing the symptoms of autism. They saw a significant improvement in the kids' behavior and wrote their findings in the journal Stem Cells Portal.
Twenty-five children with autism under 6-years-old took part in the stem cell research nearly a year and a half ago, including Gracie Gregory. Her parents told CNN they saw big and dramatic changes in their child after undergoing the clinical trial.
Gracie's autism disorder, diagnosed at 2-years-old, often resulted in tantrums and affected her daily routines by 75 percent. After the trial, her parents pegged her improvement as an eight or a nine, on a scale of one to 10.
Gracie also showed she's coping well in regular school. "You still see some of the small idiosyncrasies that she does have," dad Wade Gregory said. "But again, I think it's supercharged her learning curve. It's pushed her to do things she normally wouldn't do."
The children in the trial received blood transfusions and underwent evaluations, MRI and EEG tests at least three times. Six months after the first round of assessments, some of the children with autism already demonstrated marked improvements in the way they communicated and behaved.
Dr. Joanne Kurtzber of the Robertson Clinical and Translational Cell Therapy Program worked on cord blood stem cell treatments for other diseases for two decades. She wondered if the process was also feasible in helping children with autism.
So, she collaborated with Dr. Geraldine Dawson and her team from Duke University for this study. Marcus Foundation funded their research. They announced the undertaking of the trial's second phase among a larger number of participants next, as per the press release.