Previously, I discussed the potential that stem cells can exhibit to differentiate into useful tissue. Families interested in curing, reversing or overcoming symptoms of their child’s autism with this technology ought to be knowledgeable about whether the process works for other medical conditions. Unarguably, even by those who perform the procedure for autism, the evidence is in it’s earliest stages.
Current Stem Cell treatment that is medically utilized (United States):
Stem cells are useful when bone marrow requires rejuvenation after chemotherapy or radiation to wipe out cancer cells.
Pretty close to acceptance:
Heart attacks with cardiac damage
Ongoing investigations include:
Spinal cord repair. FDA approval for a study. A recent citation entitled, Human Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells Infusion in Spinal Cord Injury: Engraftment and Beneficial Influence on Behavior actually refers to rodent recipients.
Evidence (not necessarily experience) lacking:
Other Central Nervous System Conditions (e.g., Alzheimer’s)
The information will advance at a rapid rate, so my advice is to discuss the information as it pertains to your child, with a knowledgeable, independent and trusted practitioner.
1. Only consider human trials. We’re talking about a loved one here. A recent Cancer Research article was entitled, Human Neural Stem Cell Transplantation Ameliorates Radiation-Induced Cognitive Dysfunction. Although it looks very promising, the procedure was performed on rats. I can’t help thinking how easily someone with a vested interest in influencing a particular outcome might use that headline in order to justify or provide evidence of stem cells’ efficacy.
2. Surf wisely. Do your own research. Since much of that involves the ‘net, you are observing edited presentations of patients who are only like your child in their families’ desire to help heal their child. Are the images you watch of male or female children? What are their ages, and other co-morbid medical conditions? Did they present after vaccination (as always, an impossibility according to the AAP), like your kids, or were the children atypical since birth? Did they have GERD, or frequent antibiotic usage, or abnormal stooling since they came home from the hospital? What other treatments, such as antibiotics or steroids, were given with the transplant? Anecdotal evidence is very difficult to evaluate from youtube.com or parental testimonials. Editing is the whipped cream that can convince hopeful parents to take the plunge (and often, music is the cherry-on-top).
3. Learn when Stem Cell Treatment didn’t work. The first questions I ask when presented with any autism protocol are, “Who didn’t get better?”, and of course, “Who got worse?” These procedures are being performed in foreign countries. Even if, as is the usual contention, the criteria for certification or cleanliness are as stringent as they are in the US, the reporting agencies may not be. Centers should provide well documented outcomes and transparent (and reproducible) statistics. Follow up studies are scant. Since I know that many parents have grave concerns over administering oral melatonin to assist sleep, I can’t imagine how those families deal with this level of investigation.
I am always interested to learn from patients who have had the procedure performed on their children, some multiple times, and some who are looking to do it again. In the limited population that I have examined, the children appear to respond the same as with most biomedical treatments in that the more affected the child, the more treatment(s) is required. I have not yet noted more improvement than in those children who were treated with less complicated biomedical interventions.
Next up: Choosing a Stem Cell Center