Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a condition that is still not completely understood. A child can be born with ASD due to genetic factors, such as having ASD parents, prenatal, perinatal, and even post-natal factors that may all lead to children developing this condition. The one thing that everyone agrees on, however, is that this is a condition, not a disease, and thus there is no cure for it. The symptoms can only be managed.
Because of this, it’s understandable that many families are looking for ways to treat and manage ASD. While behavioral therapies and medication exist, the transfusion of stem cells into ASD patients, known as stem cell therapy, is yielding very promising results. But how much does this procedure cost?
The Transport Factor
One thing that every family looking into stem cell therapy will need to consider is the additional coast of travel and accommodation. While the United States currently approves the use of stem cell therapy in its own hospitals, it does for an extremely limited number of illnesses. Leukemia, a type of blood cancer, is the only form of stem cell therapy approved the Food & Drug Administration. As a result, hospitals in the USA will only legally offer stem cell therapy treatments to those diagnosed with leukemia.
Of course, research into stem cell therapy for other conditions is ongoing in American labs, but officially, and legally, stem cell therapy is extremely limited in its application in the USA. Families wishing to try stem cell therapy with their children must go to other countries that don’t hold similar policies, and thus, stem cell therapy is more accessible and legal to anyone willing to undertake the treatment.
This means looking at countries like Mexico in North America, and Georgia in Europe, which have advanced medical facilities and have legalized stem cell therapy for other conditions. Plan your budget appropriately for the cost of traveling to these countries, as well as accommodation for the duration of the treatment. Because of the nature of the procedure, especially for American families, it is unlikely that medical insurance coverage will pay for treatment in another country, so expect to bear the full brunt of the treatment cost.
There are three methods of administering stem cell therapy, and the recommended technique will be made clear after an assessment of the patient as well as the medical circumstances available to that patient.
Stem Cells From The Patient’s Cord Blood
The best-case scenario is when the patient’s mother, upon the birth of the patient, was offered the chance to harvest and store the stem cell-rich “cord blood,” leftover after birth. Cord blood, also known as umbilical cord blood, is rich in pluripotent stem cells, that highly valued “master cells” that can reprogram themselves into any cell required.
Because cord blood from a patient’s own birth means those stem cells were used in the embryonic growth and development of the patient, they will be 100% compatible when used with the patient. In this scenario, the stem cells would be retrieved from storage, transported to the treatment facility, and prepared for usage in stem cell therapy.
Cord Blood From A Sibling
If cord blood from the patient’s birth is not available because no request was made to collect and store it, that may be due to unavailability of the option at the time of birth. In some cases, however, a younger sibling at a different medical facility did have the option upon birth, and so the choice was taken then.
Cord blood from a sibling that is used in stem cell therapy still has a very high rate of compatibility, due to the family bloodline association. The exact same technique of retrieval from storage, transport to a facility, preparation, and usage in stem cell therapy are used. As expected, the cost of such a technique is also identical, since all other ways, the method is exactly the same; only the original source differs.
Stem Cells From The Patient
This is a more extensive procedure, but it can still be viable when other sources of compatible stem cells are unavailable. The human body stores limited quantities of less potent stem cells in areas like bone marrow. These stem cells can be harvested and used for stem cell therapy.
This does, however, require an extra procedure to collect the stem cells from the bone marrow, and the patient goes under general anesthetic while the harvesting occurs. Once the stem cells are harvested, they can be administered in a similar fashion for stem cell therapy.
The True Cost
Different countries will charge different rates for stem cell therapy based on accessibility and the economic conditions of that country. Generally speaking, stem cell therapy itself can average between USD$12000-15000 depending on the country and technique. A Georgia clinic, for example, reliably charges USD$12000 + VAT for all procedures. If a family goes to Mexico for treatment, the cost will differ.