Exploring Stem Cell Therapies in Autism Spectrum Disorders

I am always intrigued by the incredible resistance new ideas engender in the medical community.  Literally, every potentially effective intervention must first survive the internet onslaught of critiques and vilification.  That is absolutely the case for stem cells in the therapy of autism. Various websites state there is NO evidence for any number of treatments.  But claim simply isn’t true as you will see in the post.  But in the circle of autism debates, researchers at Duke University are being criticized for even studying stem cells.  (see below). The Duke study is unlikely to generate impressive results since it using autologous (self-derived) stem cells from the umbilical cord of the affected child.  That implies the environment and genetics of the individual were healthy at the time of delivery and that whatever caused the autism – wasn’t already present. I’m not confident that is a good assumption. 

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US researchers tend to think of themselves as the leaders in all medical technologies. In reality, the US remains decades behind other countries when it comes to stem cell research. What the US scientist would like to do with stem cells is to engineer a process for encoding certain features (like brain repair) into the stem cell so they can ultimately control the patent on the process.  Patents are about the only way universities can generate income apart from collegiate sports (a big money winner). 

One of the reasons I went to Ukraine to study stem cell therapies for autism is they have over twenty years of experience with stem cell therapies.

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After years of the excellent work by the scientists and doctors at EmCell, I, along with my collaborators from Italy, published our combined observations in Cell Transplantation [above]. The results speak for themselves.  No they are not controlled, but these are impressive reductions in symptom scores andfor children with autism, any significant change over a small period of time is most unusual.

Russian and Ukrainian medicine was isolated from the Big Pharma influences of Europe and the US until after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. For these reasons they evolved in their thinking about disease in a somewhat different manner than Western doctors.

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This slide is from I talk I gave in 2013 regarding stem cells.  It helps to demonstrate the potential for a multipotential neural stem cell for repair of spinal cord injuries.  Spinal cord repair is complicated by the changes that take place in the brain after injury to the cord.  The potential for stem cells to enter the brain and become new circuits in cognitive and language pathways is extremely remote, and I remain extremely skeptical about our potential to use them in that way.

Instead, in all of my publications on stem cells I use the term “biopharmacies”, and I think this describes implanted stem cells the best. What does the term really mean. Simply this: stem cells as chemical factories are miniature powerhouses. The type of stem cell and its level of maturation determines what the biopharmacy produces and how long it will stay active.  As a stem cell matures, it looses its “steminess” and transitions into a typical cell.  When that happens the pharmacy is largely closed for business. Potency for stem cells usually is determined by the ability of the cells to make more stem cells. In our use of the term “biopharmacy” we include that but are particularly more concerned with the strength of their pharmaceutical cocktail.  So a neuronal stem cells derived from fetal brain tissues are presumed to be the most potent at producing a cocktail of brain healing factors.  Stem cells derived from  blood precursor cells will have different effects – many of them aimed at the immune system. This is where the umbilical cord derived stem cells come in.  They are largely immunologically active – but that may be critical to resident immune cells such as the astrocytes and microglial cells in the brain. 

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In summary, Stem Cells are an important part of the ongoing efforts of many clinicians and scientists to help children with autism.  Ultimately, I would like to see these biopharmacies harnessed and their chemistry exploited, but we are likely years to decades away from that happening.  In meantime, experienced centers like EmCell deserve consideration and I look forward to furthering our collaborations. And despite all the Western media concerns, Kiev is doing well.  Patients how have been there recently report back that the conditions are safe and stable.

About Dr Bradstreet
Dr Bradstreet is a graduate of the University of South Florida College of Medicine and received his residency training at Wilford Hall USAF Medical Center. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Arizona. He is extensively published in the peer-reviewed literature on subjects of autism, oxidative stress, mitochondrial disorders, virology, hyperbaric oxygen, and toxicology (especially heavy metal chelation). He is trained in the the isolation and use of stem cells.

One Response to Exploring Stem Cell Therapies in Autism Spectrum Disorders

  1. Nice to hear from you about this. Thanks for hard work.

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