Dawson G, Sun JM, Davlantis KS, Murias M, Franz L, Troy J, Simmons R, Sabatos-DeVito M, Durham R, Kurtzberg J. Autologous Cord Blood Infusions Are Safe and Feasible in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Results of a Single-Center Phase I Open-Label Trial. Stem Cells Transl Med. 2017 May;6(5):1332-1339.
Despite advances in early diagnosis and behavioral therapies, more effective treatments for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are needed. We hypothesized that umbilical cord blood-derived cell therapies may have potential in alleviating ASD symptoms by modulating inflammatory processes in the brain. Accordingly, we conducted a phase I, open-label trial to assess the safety and feasibility of a single intravenous infusion of autologous umbilical cord blood, as well as sensitivity to change in several ASD assessment tools, to determine suitable endpoints for future trials. Twenty-five children, median age 4.6 years (range 2.26-5.97), with a confirmed diagnosis of ASD and a qualified banked autologous umbilical cord blood unit, were enrolled. Children were evaluated with a battery of behavioral and functional tests immediately prior to cord blood infusion (baseline) and 6 and 12 months later. Assessment of adverse events across the 12-month period indicated that the treatment was safe and well tolerated. Significant improvements in children's behavior were observed on parent-report measures of social communication skills and autism symptoms, clinician ratings of overall autism symptom severity and degree of improvement, standardized measures of expressive vocabulary, and objective eye-tracking measures of children's attention to social stimuli, indicating that these measures may be useful endpoints in future studies. Behavioral improvements were observed during the first 6 months after infusion and were greater in children with higher baseline nonverbal intelligence quotients. These data will serve as the basis for future studies to determine the efficacy of umbilical cord blood infusions in children with ASD.
Gesundheit B, Ashwood P, Keating A, Naor D, Melamed M, Rosenzweig JP. Therapeutic properties of mesenchymal stem cells for autism spectrum disorders. Med Hypotheses. 2015 Mar;84(3):169-77.
Recent studies of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) highlight hyperactivity of the immune system, irregular neuronal growth and increased size and number of microglia. Though the small sample size in many of these studies limits extrapolation to all individuals with ASD, there is mounting evidence of both immune and nervous system related pathogenesis in at least a subset of patients with ASD. Given the disturbing rise in incidence rates for ASD, and the fact that no pharmacological therapy for ASD has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is an urgent need for new therapeutic options. Research in the therapeutic effects of mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) for other immunological and neurological conditions has shown promising results in preclinical and even clinical studies. MSC have demonstrated the ability to suppress the immune system and to promote neurogenesis with a promising safety profile. The working hypothesis of this paper is that the potentially synergistic ability of MSC to modulate a hyperactive immune system and its ability to promote neurogenesis make it an attractive potential therapeutic option specifically for ASD. Theoretical mechanisms of action will be suggested, but further research is necessary to support these hypothetical pathways. The choice of tissue source, type of cell, and most appropriate ages for therapeutic intervention remain open questions for further consideration. Concern over poor regulatory control of stem cell studies or treatment, and the unique ethical challenges that each child with ASD presents, demands that future research be conducted with particular caution before widespread use of the proposed therapeutic intervention is implemented.