“I AM IN HERE” and How Stem Cells May Be Working in Autism

One on my many blessings is getting to know families from all over the World.  At last count my patients come from 42 different countries.  This is from a mother of a child treated at EmCell at the end of November 2011. I am inserting it here unedited, except where you see italics. Those are my additions for the sake of understanding.  The family is from Serbia and their English is much, much better than my Serbian – which is zero.  They have done everything to help their son imaginable and he made lots of progress in many areas except language.  As you will read, he had next to no useful expressive language (verbally) prior to stem cell therapy.  Within a few weeks he developed expressive language in sentences.  I spoke to another family who know the boy and they are shocked by the changes in the last few weeks. In order for this to have happened this child had to have the language in his head, but the expression of the words was blocked by some interfering substance.  Neuronal stem cells have not had time in my estimate – to enter the brain – create neurocircuitsry – form language connects from nothing – and then generate speech.  All of this family’s hard work at therapy – ABA – and biomedical interventions had to create the language in his mind – but it was locked in and couldn’t be expressed. 

This is by no means an unexpected problem with autism.  Thanks to various forms of facilitated and electronic means – children with autism are telling us they are present but unable to connect to us with spoken words. But more on that after the comments from this mother from Serbia.

Dear Dr Bradstreet,

We finish with stem cell therapy 30 of November and I saw changes in my son’s spontaneous speech…for example….I yelled at him because he refused to listen to me when we learn (do our ABA lessons) and then he suddenly put fingers on his ears and said ‘Momy yell…yell….He wanted to say’ I cant hear you Momy…..I was thrilled!!! I ask him whose mother is Petrisha……whose father is Vlado….so he was bored ….and he answer me no more about family!!!! Before the (stem cell) therapy he had no spontaneous responses….(now) he speaks in sentences…answer in sentences….I ask him…Dusko are we going to learn(Because I do ABA 4 HOURS A DAY) and he answer “No because I want to play with Petra” (Petra is his sister) But he has problem with behavior……..he is more hiper than it was..before therapy…he still has stimming with hands and his voice….he start again to be out off control when we go out he is crying and crying when we dont want to buy him a favorit toy…..he start again to have tantrums….once when he was with his daddy in plane he repeated all the time…”I want to go to play with Sarah’s train”…..Sarah is his friend who has train that he like so much….and daddy couldnt make him stop……

Clearly we are a long way from finishing this child’s recovery process and stem cells are not magical.  But this boy found his voice with stem cells and now other things are changing in his body and he is still learning how to self-regulate.  He has struggled with hyperactivity and OCD type of behaviors for several years so these are not new symptoms.  We are removing much of his medications and supplements to let his body adjust to the stem cells and will make further adjustments over time as well.  Hopefully these other symptoms will be under control soon.

Elizabeth Bonker is another example of children letting us know they are not lost.  I have had a blessing to get to know her over the last several years and her book (written with her mother) is a stirring reminder of why we can never give up on our children.  You need to read this one. I AM IN HERE — I can just hear the internal language of this child screaming to out to be heard.


On this blog I have referenced the story of a 53 Italian woman that seeming awoke after she received and anti-TNF alpha medication.  I truly believe TNF alpha may represent our most important adversary in recovery. I am posting it again to remind you about the story mentioned on several blogs from last year.


Stem Cell Details

So just what is the process all about?  After arrival at the clinic the nurses do their best to quickly get a urine specimen (not easy since we are all fasting) but seems most of our kids were successful in giving one.  Then they draw blood – and in event he toughest cases they did great.  After the that the physicians – generally 2-4 of them examine the patients.  Once they have their history, physical and lab back they determine whether stem cells are appropriate and which combination of cells would be best.

Stem cells from this point of view are from one of three main types also known as germ layers: 1) ectoderm, 2) mesoderm, or 3) endoderm.  In autism, the patients generally get all three stem types but the concentration may vary from patient to patient. the rationale is related to the need for brain, gut and immune healing.  The graphic below can help to guide you through the cell types.


And to further help you see this process in stem cell development see this graphic.


One of the philosophies expressed by Prof Karpenko goes like this: stem cells from designer laboratory creations and embryonic cells created by artificial fertilization have no history of regulated function as healthy human cells.  By contrast, fetal derived stem cells have been taught by the system how they should behave. This just means they have been given their regulatory instructions on how to act like a team player.  He believes this is important and I tend to agree with him on this. 

Immediate effects of stem cell transplantation

The doctors at the clinic informed me we would most likely see immediate effects which could last up to 10 days.  These effects are thought to foreshadow future more permanent changes to come. This is an intriguing observation.  My take is that these effects are largely mediated by cell signaling chemicals in the suspension of the stem cells – rather than by the direct action of stem cells.  This would be especially true for the brain effects. 

I was able to observe an immediate decrease in self-stimulation and hyperactivity in my step-son with his treatments.  It was so profound that on the day we were supposed to get the second application (and it is nearly always a 2 day process separated by a day between) he actually asked to go to the clinic to see the doctors to get his shot. The physicians at EmCell claim they see this routinely where the children act much differently within 2 days.  As hard as that is to accept, I was able to observe it first hand. Another immediate effect is improved appetite and energy.  Also observed within this first few days in improved sensory integration and functioning – especially for touch and auditory dysfunctions.  Exactly how this happens so fast is hard to understand but it may have a lot to do with anti-inflammatory effects or other cell mediators. 

In my own case, I noted the ability to walk all over Kiev with out any knee pain or swelling.  My right knee has had 11 operations secondary to football and snow skiing injuries. Normally it would swell significantly and also be very uncomfortable. It generally wake me up a few times at night with pain (I have had little to no knee pain since the procedure).  I also observed a remarkable increase in exercise tolerance – and I was able to climb the 100 or so steps to the top of the hill where the giant “Motherland”: statue oversees the city of Kiev without any significant shortness of breath. These effects are interesting, but the clinicians at EmCell feel the main effects related to the transplant take place after 6 weeks.

I will keep you posted.

Further Reflections of Stem Cell Therapies with EmCell in Kiev

For many of us in Europe or the Americas it seems strange, even incredulous, that the leading and most experienced center in stem cell transplantation is in Kiev, Ukraine.  However, it would be hard to spend any time with the clinicians at EmCell and not come away with that impression.  All of the research from the late pioneer, Professor Smikodub, is published in Russian or Ukrainan. Only two of his scores of articles are present on medline (PubMed) and since few in the West read Cyrillic languages, much of it is lost to us.  One thought that comes to mind is to translate all of the research and publications from the clinicians and scientists at EmCell and create a library where others can learn about the invaluable wisdom of the last 20 years. 


Here a nurse observes the doctor as she injects stem cells into the saline drip of a patient with multiple-endocrine dysfunctions.

In talking to Professor Karpenko about the early years at EmCell, he was adamant Smikodub put so much thought into the process prior to first administering stem cells to humans that it has worked from the beginning.  That is remarkable.  All of the doctors and staff agree there have never been any serious adverse reactions to stem cell therapies using their process. 

As with any human transplant the entire process is rigorously controlled and is the state-of-the-art process we all us for transfusion and tissue/organ transplantation. I felt confident enough to be treated for my post-disc herniation nerve damage and I will keep you posted if there is any change in that condition.

Where is the World’s research on complex disorders like cerebral palsy. Interestingly, Duke University, Medical College of Georgia and Northwestern University, all have an ongoing trial of autologous umbilical stem cells to treat cerebral palsy. Early responses from the Duke patients has been widely publicized.  So it should come as no surprise that the clinicians at EmCell have been seeing similar results for nearly 20 years.  They do not use cord blood stem cells and that is good thing since most of us have no access to cord blood. 

I will post more on this later today –but for now the beautiful Fall weather and scenery in northern Georgia is calling.

Kiev and Stem Cell Experiences on Day 2

Another interesting day in Kiev and with the staff at EmCell.  In the morning I started the day out with more families starting their first course of stem cell therapies.  This group included a breast cancer survivor with autoimmune problems and three children with autism and immune dysfunction.  The youngest was 4 and she did much better than expected during the usual challenge of blood specimen collect and as usual the skilled nursing staff collected the specimen on the first try (not an easy feat for many of our children on the autism spectrum).  They were successful in getting her IV infusion for round one of stem cells, but not without a major tantrum over having her arm held during the process.  She was never in pain, but the emotional trauma of having someone restrain her arm was enough to trigger a major meltdown.  Not that this is unusual and many of us who live with someone on the spectrum see just how easily they fall apart when the sensory environment and obsessive interests are not immediately satisfied.

The challenge for the doctors is they rightfully want to examine the non-sedated child, yet the child often is intolerant of the entire process.  This faces all of use in clinical practice when we attempt our examinations and diagnostic/therapeutic interventions.

After this I spent the rest of the afternoon with Dr Karpenko learning about the rich heritage of the Ukrainian people and the City of Kiev.


Dr Karpenko escorted Aaron around a 3 hour walking tour of the city on his first day after stem cell therapy and he was remarkably calm and interested in the new surroundings. 


Dominating the landscape of the city is this huge titanium monument to the victories painfully won in WWII.  The statue reminds me to never, never, never give up with the battle to help children with autism.

And Kiev is not without its elegant European architecture. The orthodox churches, opera house and stylish cityscapes made for a pleasant adventure for our first post-transplantation adventure.


This is the famous Philharmonic house – reported to have the finest acoustics in the World.


And while this beautiful Orthodox cathedral appears to be centuries old it was built only 8 years ago and is a reconstruction of the original damaged structure.  Without being overly metaphorical it is an interesting model for what we hope to accomplish with stem cells.  Remodeling the old damaged structures with a new one which is exactly what it should have been.


Aaron was able to enjoy the remarkable diversity of cultures and food present in Kiev and this ethnic restaurant was a great experience for us all – even without french fries. I tried a traditional Cossack soup of millet, herbs and mouton (all organic) and on a rather cold day it was exactly what the doctor needed.


Later on Dr Karpenko and I exchanged our thoughts about stem cell therapies and agreed to carefully evaluate the progress of the children being treated so we could more properly describe the effects and therapeutic benefits.  This conversation was recorded so in 6-9 months it can be part of the full story on this unique form of potential therapy for autism.

All for now – more to follow.

Reporting from Kiev Ukraine on the Stem Cell Therapy Process at EmCell

This Sunday I spent most of the day with Dr Karpenko, one of originators of the EmCell center and during the morning we both met with the clinicians who would carrying out the treatments on the patients. We reviewed medical histories and considered various stem cell mixtures to assist each patient with their individual needs. The families that came with me on this trip represent a diverse spectrum of challenges for the doctors – ranging from breast cancer (post chemotherapy) to autism, chronic fatigue syndrome, post traumatic injuries, and Lyme disease. The clinicians here have vast experience in treating many disorders.  They have treated an estimated 100 children with autism (mostly from Europe and far more than I realized) and I believe they have more experience than any stem cell therapy center in the World. Dr Nouytska is reported to be the first clinician to treat any human disease (type 1 diabetes) with stem cells over 20 years ago. All of her colleagues: including Dr Sych (the neurologist – with an appropriate last name), Dr Hemchuk, Dr Klunnik and the others were incredibly patient with our high need, high demand patients.  They were also very willing to learn from our clinical experiences with treating children with autism.  The administrative assistant Yuliia (“Eula”) was organized and extremely proficient as a translator.  She is also very passionate about stem cell therapies after her many years of work with EmCell and having seen so many benefits for the patients. Dr Karpenko with Joe (more on him to follow) hosted a traditional ethnic dinner with the families last night and Dr Karpenko patiently answered all of the parents very direct questions about stem cell therapies.

But none of this would be happening for these families right now if a big hearted American – Wisconsin born (Joe Maerske) hadn’t picked up the phone to talk to me about EmCell.  Joe did his job of lowering my fears about this – at least to me – unknown group of clinicians and researchers.  I am so glad he did.  He rightly called it: these are warm and talented people who will do all they can to help what can be helped with the tools they have (specialty stem cells).

First let me say that many people have very little knowledge of Kiev, and I will put myself in the category as well.  I have traveled all over western Europe, but this was my first trip to the central countries of Europe. So let me settle your curiosities and say Kiev is a modern city with one foot in the past and one in the future.  Infrastructure enhancement and new construction is going on everywhere. Despite this, many parts of the city (like many cities) are still in need of significant repairs and modernization. 

The only problem I have in Kiev is the same problem I have faced in Thailand and China (the alphabet).  The Cyrillic alphabet is just different for me. I know enough Latin, French, German and Spanish to piece together most of my needs in western Europe, but the alphabet precludes me from doing that in Ukraine. However, we are guided through this process by wonderful people who are very skilled in English.  The drivers who transport us back and forth are always on time and some speak English but they know exactly where to escort us for treatment and they are always on time.   I will let the families give me comments to post (in the next few days) about this trip so you can know how their children with autism managed the long flight, time zones, the city and the treatments. But in summary they are all amazing their parents with how well they are tolerating the travel.

Below is a picture of my wife (Jennifer) taken yesterday from our hotel balcony in the old downtown area of the city. It is lovely and looks like any other modern city in Europe. I would have liked to post pictures about the hospital and the clinic, but I took those on my movie camera and left my cable at home.  So I will take my still camera tomorrow and give you more perspectives on the process.

I start off again with the families early in the morning so I will conclude this post by letting you know I had no immediate side-effects from the stem cells transplantation (implanting) I had today for my own loss of cartilage in my knee and my post disc injury nerve damage in my legs.  It will be an interesting test of the potency of these cells to see what my own progress is as well as that of the children with autism who are being treated at the same time.   More tomorrow if the Kiev Ballet performance of Swan Lake doesn’t take up too much time.  I hear it is every bit as good, if not better, than the Bolshoi in Moscow. 

Stems Cells and Knee Regeneration

I’ve been studying stem cells for several years watching as this science starts its maturation process.  There is no doubt in my mind that stem cell therapies will dominate the medical landscape in the next few decades.  My colleagues and friends in Thailand have been working to enhance the restoration of lost cartilage from joints using self-donated stem cells (MSCs). This is especially important to knees and hips where cartilage loss is a common source of pain, disability and surgery. While we have made tremendous gains with surgical artificial joint replacement and resurfacing – it remains a painful and expensive process.

Below is a  photo of an actual knee without significant cartilage loss.  The shiny and smooth surface is cartilage and that is what gets worn out or damaged from injuries common to athletes.


This picture below is the “old school” approach: fairly radical joint replacement surgery which I hope will be replaced by stem cell implantation.  (I am keeping this image small so I don’t make too many of you sick).


Below is the progress report and publication from the Thai team investigating the use of stem cells in knee arthritis.  I think you will see (by contrast to this image of surgery) why I am so excited about stem cells.

Autologous bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells implantation for cartilage defects: two cases report.

Kasemkijwattana C, Hongeng S, Kesprayura S, Rungsinaporn V, Chaipinyo K, Chansiri K.

J Med Assoc Thai. 2011 Mar;94(3):395-400.

Department of Orthopedics, Faculty of Medicine, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Medical Center, Srinakhrinwirot University, Nakhon Nayok, Thailand. chann@swu.ac.th

The authors reported the results of autologous bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BM-MSCs) implantation in two patients with large traumatic cartilage defects of the knee.


Two patients with grade 3-4 according to the International Cartilage Repair Society Classification System were performed autologous bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BM-MSCs) implantation on December 2007 and January 2008. The bone marrow aspiration was performed in the outpatient visit under local anesthesia and sent to the laboratory for BM-MSCs isolation and expansion. The BM-MSCs were re-implanted into the defects with the three-dimensional collagen scaffold. The patients were clinical evaluated preoperatively and postoperatively with Knee and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS), International Knee Documentation Committee Score (IKDC Score) and arthroscopic examination. The duration of follow-up was 30-31 months.


There was no postoperative complication. The clinical evaluation with Knee and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS) and International Knee Documentation Committee Score (IKDC Score) showed significant improvement. The arthroscopic assessment showed the good defect fill, stiffness and incorporation to the adjacent cartilage.


The autologous bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells implantation showed the potential for the treatment of large cartilage defects. The one-stage procedure is the advantage over the conventional autologous chondrocytes implantation. The long-term follow-up with long last hyaline-like cartilage is required.

This was a different approach to what we do here in the US and it is intriguing to say the least.  They used Adult MSCs (previously discussed on this blog) and did not pre-convert them to cartilage cells.  I think that was a wise choice.  In essence they let the MSCs decide based on their environmental signals to become a certain type of cell.  It is impressive work and over the years of my travels to Thailand I have come to respect their medical community’s skills and creativity. 

This is an important area of stem cell research and I like it for application to many areas.  In the US we activate the stem cells with platelet factors (then use both together for implantation) and this also seems to work better than using pre-manufactured cartilage  cells. 

Why I Am More Hopeful Now Than Ever About Autism, ME/CFS, HIV, Alzheimer’s and other Chronic Illnesses: the Stem Cell, TNF-alpha, Viral/Pathogen connection.

On this blog I have been writing about stem cells, hyperbaric oxygen (HBOT), and some incredible new observations related to reversing brain inflammation.  All of the diseases I listed above and a whole bunch more are tied to persistent inflammation.  Inflammation itself is very important to the body.  In a healthy person it doesn’t persist. It comes in response injury or infection – cleans that up – then stem cells communicate the need to stop the inflammation and heal.  To that extent, these chronic – persistent inflammatory conditions are the result of a failure of stem cells to do their job to counter inflammation. I will explain what is keeping them out of the process below and in future posts.

As this following picture demonstrates, the balance of inflammation regulation in the brain is complicated, intricate and precarious. But science has reached a point where we understand a large portion of the regulatory pathways.


[Frontiers in Bioscience 14, 5291-5338, June 1, 2009]

Caption: Microglia are the primary recipients of peripheral inflammatory signals as they reach the brain. Activated microglia initiate an inflammatory cascade by releasing cytokines, chemokines, prostaglandins and reactive nitrogen and oxygen species (RNS and ROS, respectively). Bi-directional exchanges between microglia and astroglia amplify inflammatory signals within the central nervous system (CNS). Cytokines including interleukin (IL)-1, IL-6, tumor necrosis (TNF)-alpha and interferon (IFN)-gamma induce indoleamine 2,3 dioxygenase (IDO), the enzyme responsible for degrading tryptophan, the primary precursor of serotonin (5-HT), into kynurenine, which is eventually metabolized into quinolinic acid (QUIN), a potent NMDA agonist and stimulator of glutamate (Glu) release. Multiple astrocytic functions are compromised due to the excessive exposure to cytokines, prostaglandins, QUIN and RNS/ROS, ultimately leading to downregulation of glutamate transporters, impaired glutamate reuptake, excessive glutamate release and compromised synthesis and release of neurotrophic factors. Oligodendroglia suffer damage due to toxic overexposure to cytokines such as TNF-alpha, and diminished neurotrophic support, both of which promote apoptosis and demyelination. Copious amounts of glutamate are released from astrocytes in the vicinity of extrasynaptic NMDA receptors, whose activation leads to inhibition of BDNF synthesis. Excessive NMDA activation, caused by QUIN and D-serine, is compounded by diminished glutamate reuptake by astrocytes and oligodendroglia. NMDA-mediated excitotoxicity, combined with a consequent decline in neurotrophic support, and an increase in oxidative stress, synergistically disrupts neural plasticity and induces apoptosis (cell death).

So it doesn’t matter if we are talking about autism, post-stroke inflammation, Alzheimer’s, HIV dementia; the central mechanism is largely the same.

Now this is important to understand: if we have persistent inflammation in the brain, what is driving that signal? The immune system has lots of regulatory steps designed to keep it in balance, but despite all the intrinsic safeguards in the system – it has lost control. Why?

Some perspective: About 5 years ago I was sitting on a bus with Professor Thayne Sweeten. We were on our way to dinner to relax after a full day of brainstorming as a group of researchers interested in autism. Thayne is a bright guy. His PhD dissertation was Immune Activation and Autoimmunity in Autism. He explained from everything he had seen regarding the immune system of autism; the CSF observations, the increase in neopterin, etc,, that at least a significant subgroup of children had the immunological footprint of a persistent viral pathogen.

I agreed – and I still do agree – especially after 5 years of discoveries. And it doesn’t have to be a virus: many other pathogenic bacteria and fungi could cause the same response. But for simplicity let’s just say virus.

We don’t have to agree about which virus is persistent in autism, it actually doesn’t matter that much. I am surprised to hear myself say that, but after what I have learned in the last few months, I don’t think the actual virus is that important.  That is because most do not have a specific anti-viral drug (apart from HIV and some Herpes viruses).  Even in those cases the drugs are inadequate and something else is needed.



The picture depicts the blind miraculously being given sight. I would love to see a miracle of immune unblinding in autism, or any of these other disorders.  Absent that we need to give it sight medically.

If you read my blog about this last night I spoke about the problem.  We have a raging immune response just like we would expect with a viral infection, except it doesn’t go away. Why?  The immune cells (particularly macrophages) seem to be blind and cannot find the enemy they are looking for.  So while they stumble around, unable to find the viral enemies, the entire system stays turned on.  And it will stay turned on until either stem cells say enoughits time to heal, or until the virus is eliminated.

The evidence is we don’t generate enough stem cell response to regulate this type of immune response – presumably because the viruses are still present.  Therefore, extra stem cells may help cool the immune fires. BUT, and it is an important but, do we want to down-regulate the immune system if a virus is still present? My belief is – no.

What we want is to make the virus go away and with that have the immune response naturally calm down.

To do that we have to give sight to the blind and help the macrophages find their targets.

To do this we are working with some of the finest biotech labs in Europe and we believe we have the solution.  More on that to come.

A brief but helpful discussion about TNF alpha is on wikipedia.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tumor_necrosis_factor-alpha