Autism is today, more correctly referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. The term ASD is a more accurate description of the condition, which is a variety of different symptoms—many behavioral—that express themselves along a spectrum of different degrees of severity. Because of this variety, it took centuries before medical science correctly began to perceive the subtleties of the condition. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1980s that autism was formally recognized. Before that, it was thought to be just a variation of schizophrenia and treated as a mental disorder.
Modern medical science now has the understanding that this is a neurophysiological disorder with a lot of nuance and variance. This is why similar to Lyme disease, ASD could, in the past be difficult to diagnose, as someone could have milder symptoms that rendered them “eccentric” to those around them, while those on the more severe end of the spectrum were alienated, uncommunicative, and could interact with others only with great difficulty.
Because this, finding treatments for the various symptoms of autism hasn’t been easy. It is not a contagious virus-like pneumonia, where a course of antibiotics will clear it. But now more understanding and advances have been made in assessing and treating autism. Umbilical cord blood and the stem cells it contains may be another piece of solving the ASD puzzle.
Stem Cell Therapy’s Potential
ASD is a condition, not a disease, and as such, it cannot be cured. The various symptoms, however, can be treated or managed. Sometimes this means specific behavioral therapy to teach children certain activities, such as learning to tie shoelaces or learning to wait until someone is finished speaking before replying. In other instances, it may mean the usage of medication. Anti-psychotics, for example, have been prescribed for effective results in some cases.
Now stem cell therapy is looking promising, though the full extent of its potential has yet to be fully understood since it is a recent development. While the specific applications with ASD still require further research, the actual techniques and results have already been medically evaluated in other areas. It’s a given that stem call can, and does work. It’s already been proven to do so and is used as an effective treatment in fighting certain types of cancer, like leukemia.
What Do Stem Cells Do?
Stem cells also have the nickname “master cells,” because they are like endlessly configurable “blank slates,” that can adapt themselves to whatever is needed. Unlike other cells, a stem cell can become any cell, even ones that normally don’t reproduce in great numbers.
A typical cell, such as a blood cell or a skin cell, can only reproduce into one thing, and that is a copy of itself. If you get a cut, or you get a burn, new skin cells are formed from existing skin cells. If in a cut, you bleed out a little, that blood loss is replaced by blood cells creating more copies of themselves. However, if you experience damage to your heart, for example, new heart cells can’t come from blood cells. And new liver cells can’t come from brain cells. Stem cells, however, can become any cell that is required to replace missing cells.
Under normal circumstances, small amounts of stem cells remain stored away in the body in hard to reach places. Bone marrow is one of the parts of the human body with a reserve of stem cells. Unfortunately, as you might imagine, retrieving stem cells from bone marrow, while possible, is a complex procedure, and it doesn’t yield huge amounts of stem cells.
Cord Blood Is The Answer
When a fetus is forming and growing in the womb, that is a process that makes extensive use of stem cells. This makes sense when you think about it, as babies grow from a basic collection of cells into more specialized groups that eventually form organs. As a result, the fluids that pass through the umbilical cord, or “cord blood” are saturated with useful stem cells. This is why it’s a good idea to request the collection and storage of cord blood once a baby is born, as this guarantees a supply of 100% compatible stem cells.
These stem cells, when applied as stem cell therapy, have yielding promising results in treating ASD. Depending on the type of ASD symptoms a child manifests, stem cell therapy may reduce inflammation that can be associated with autism, and, in some cases, has been seen to help manage certain ASD behaviors, such as reducing violence and hostility in some patients.
Of course, with such a new method of treatment, this means that research is still ongoing. The full effects and consequences of stem cell therapy for ASD treatment are not completely documented yet. What is known is that an important medically confirmed treatment for some forms of cancer now appears to be having good results with ASD as well.