Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are a group of psychological conditions in which the patient has difficulty communicating and socializing, has repetitive behaviours or actions, and might show fixation towards specific actions or items. There are many theories about what causes autism, but there are no clear answers yet.
Since there is a lack of clarity regarding what causes the disorder, no definitive treatments are available for them. While occupational therapy and certain medications can help control some symptoms and improve function, the individuals still require much support and are not fully treated.
Stem cells have been a vast area of interest for researchers as they can regenerate into different cells and are being used to treat various conditions such as blood cancers, multiple sclerosis, burns, etc.
Some believe that autism is caused by abnormal immune responses, and stem cells can help counteract this, so some research is being conducted into stem cell therapy for autism.
Various types of stem cell treatments for autism are conducted, so let’s look a little into them.
Embryonic stem cells
Embryos are formed 4-7 days after fertilization of an egg and contain cells that can create any cell in the human body. Such cells are called pluripotent and are not found in any other stage of development. Not only can they form any structure, but they also keep regenerating to form more identical cells. After the 7th day, these cells divide into three layers that form specific structures and organs. Hence, they have to be extracted before the 7th day.
These stem cells are extracted from embryos produced via in vitro fertilization and donated. But these are not used often as there is a lot of controversy around them.
Induced pluripotent stem cells
As the name suggests, these cells are also pluripotent, meaning they can form any structure. But the catch in these cells is that these cells are made pluripotent by interventional techniques. Adult cells are taken from the patient, and specific genes and reprogramming factors are added to make them pluripotent.
But, this technique is new and slow, has low success rates, and is still in the research phase. Once it passes the initial stages, it can be considered a potential stem cell treatment for autism.
Adult stem cells
Another stem cell therapy for autism treatment that is of interest is via adult stem cells. Adult stem cells are cells that are not yet differentiated but are found in differentiated tissues. There are five major types:
- Hematopoietic Stem Cells (Blood Stem Cells)
- Mesenchymal Stem Cells
- Neural Stem Cells
- Epithelial Stem Cells
- Skin Stem Cells
These stem cells are not pluripotent but rather multipotent, meaning they can form more than one type of cell, but not all cells found in the human body. These, too, can regenerate and create more stem cells.
Compared to the previous two techniques, these stem cells are easier to extract and can be removed from the patient. But this is still very tricky. Apart from that, like most other cells in the human body, these are also impacted by ageing, and their regenerative potential can decrease with age.
Umbilical cord stem cells
Umbilical cord stem cells have recently gotten a lot of attention and are thought to have a lot of therapeutic value. A substance known as the Wharton Jelly is present in the umbilical cord, and it contains large amounts of these stem cells. Which can be saved when the baby is born.
These stem cells are also much easier to extract and save for use. These can then be used for research purposes, as in the case of stem cell research for autism treatment. The patients can also use the protected cells in the future.
Umbilical cord stem cells that are mesenchymal also cause a much lower immune response, so even after they are administered in someone else’s blood. They can act on the individual without causing too many antibodies to be formed against them. Cord blood mononuclear cells are easier to extract and are in higher quantities than cord mesenchymal cells, but they need to be matched to the recipient, unlike the mesenchymal type.
The research on stem cell therapy for autism treatment is still ongoing but the early applications are going great. If you want to find out whether this type of treatment can help you, contact a leading institution in the field of stem cell therapy and receive all the benefits of this modern treatment.