Autism is a difficult condition to deal with and diagnose, which is one of the reasons why, for so many years, autism was a challenge for medical professionals. Autism is now more properly known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, which acknowledges the fact that that the intensity and specific symptoms of autism lie along a very broad spectrum.
This is why, in the past, some conditions were given entirely separate categories, such as Aspergers Syndrome. Today, more comprehensive research and a better understanding of the manifestation of symptoms have now more accurately included many seemingly disparate conditions under the umbrella of ASD. This is why some people who may appear to have severe communication and information processing issues can be diagnosed as autistic, while people with high functioning autism, who only appear a little bit eccentric in some respects both have the same condition; they just fall along with different areas of the spectrum.
ASD, unfortunately, does not have a cure. ASD symptoms can be treated and managed, but no vaccination or antibiotic can be administered that makes ASD go away. ASD knowledge, while growing, is still not absolute, and there is a great deal about this condition that is still unknown and still being researched all over the world.
However, despite the lack of a cure, progress is being made in ASD treatment and management. Depending on the type of ASD diagnosed, some people, for example, benefit from behavioral therapy, teaching children, for example, the mannerisms that others usually integrate subconsciously, such as maintaining eye contact while speaking. Others respond to medication, such as anti-psychotics. However, research and interesting results are coming from another avenue of treatment, and that is stem cell therapy.
The Stem Cell Discovery
Stem cells aren’t new, but the ways to use them are a relatively recent scientific discovery. The best way to think of stem cells is as “blank,” or “master cells.” Ordinarily, the cells in our body can only have replacements created by other similar cells. When we bleed or donate blood, that loss is replenished by our existing blood cells creating new blood cells. When we get cut or recover from a burn, the skin that grows there comes from skin cells reproducing new skin cells. A skin cell can’t create a brain cell, and a liver cell can’t create a heart cell.
This is where stem cells radically differ. Stem cells can be “overwritten” to become any cell they need to be. This is how an embryo developing in the mother’s womb can go from a collection of simple cells multiplying, into specialized cells for different organs like the brain, stomach, and eyes. In effect, we all start from stem cells, and then as we mature in our mother’s womb, those cells eventually specialize.
However, even after birth, we still have stem cells in us, just in smaller concentration. Stem cells are still present in the bone marrow. If required, these stem cells can be harvested, though of course, the procedure of collecting stem cells within the bone marrow is technical and extensive.
How Stem Cell Therapy Works
Stem cell therapy is a well-documented form of medical treatment for certain illnesses. Leukemia, which is a type of cancer that affects blood cells, has experienced dramatic success with this type of treatment, rather than more traditional methods, such as radio or chemotherapy. Stem cells have two benefits, growing into whatever cells are required, as well as encouraging the affected area to increase its production of replacement cells.
However, as with any introduction of a new element into the body, some compatibility is required. In the case of stem cells, either a person’s own stem cells, from bone marrow, or stem cells previously collected from birth, such as “cord blood,” which is found in the umbilical cord of the birth mother, and is rich in stem cells, are ideal for use.
Stem Cells & Autism
Stem cell treatment for autism is a relatively new method, but the results so far have been quite promising. Stem cells are administered either intravenously, usually through a major vein in the arm, or intrathecally, which require more precise injection into the spinal cord.
Because autism cases may be a mix of both physiological disorders and behavioral, not every child is suitable for this form of treatment. However, if a child’s speech issues, or violent behavior, for example, are related to a physical condition, then stem cell therapy to encourage the growth of new, healthy cells in problem areas can reduce these conditions.
It is important, however, to ensure that a proper diagnosis occurs. While stem cell therapy can generate promising results, there are no guarantees for every symptom of ASD. Some children may receive much more effective results from behavioral therapy, while others may require a regular prescription of medicine. Make sure to have your child properly evaluated by medical professionals first, before assuming stem cell therapy must be the answer.