• 1 in 54 kids in the U.S. are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder
  • Symptoms- Difficulty with communication, social interactions, obsessive interests, etc.
  • Study- Autistic kids without intellectual disability exhibited improvements

A single infusion of a child’s own or donor cord blood could improve social communication skills in children aged 2-7 diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, claims a new study.

Duke researchers sought to find out if cord blood infusion in autistic children could improve their social communication skills. They included 180 children in their prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study and administered a single intravenous autologous infusion and evaluated them for 6 months post-infusion.

The findings revealed that those autistic kids without intellectual disability exhibited improvements in language communication, ability to sustain attention measure via tracking, and also had improvements in measures of brain function such as alpha and beta EEG power.

Autistic kids with intellectual disabilities did not benefit from the cord blood infusion and showed no social communication improvement post the infusion, according to the study published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

“Cord blood contains immune-modulating cells called monocytes in the laboratory, these cells calm down a type of brain inflammation that can be seen in children with autism. In this study, we tested whether cord blood infusions would lessen symptoms in children with autism,” Joanne Kurtzberg, M.D., Jerome S. Harris Distinguished Professor of Paediatrics, director of the Marcus Center for Cellular Cures and a pioneer in the use of cord blood treatments told Duke Health.

Approximately 40 % of kids diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder might also suffer from an intellectual disability. They might have an IQ of less than 70. Further research needs to be carried out, to understand why the effect of cord blood infusion was different between autistic children with or without intellectual disability and if this treatment could be altered in such a way that it could benefit more children.

“It is unclear whether the failure for children with an intellectual disability is due to the short duration of the study, the outcome measures not being sensitive enough to detect a change in this population or that the cord blood is actually not an effective treatment for children with autism who also have an intellectual disability,” the study’s first author Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., director of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences and the William Cleland Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences told Duke Health.

The researchers also hope that they would conduct a trial designed especially for autistic kids with intellectual disability focusing on outcome measures that can be targeted to test them. They are also planning to design studies to test other cell therapies in older kids with autism without intellectual disability.

Boys are nearly 5 times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ASD. Pixabay