A new clinical trial is set to examine whether or not stem cells from a child’s own cord blood are an effective treatment for autism symptoms.
The study, which was announced Tuesday, is the first of its kind to win approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Researchers said they plan to include 30 kids with autism ages 2 to 7. Each participant will receive two injections — one a placebo and the other containing stem cells from the child’s own cord blood — over the course of the 13-month trial. In an effort to limit bias, both the study participants and the lead investigators will not be told which injection is given at what time.
Scientists are looking to assess whether or not the stem cell infusion leads to improvements in behavior or language in children without any known cause for their autism diagnosis such as a genetic conditions like fragile X syndrome.
“Cord blood stem cells may offer ways to modulate or repair the immune systems of these patients which would also improve language and some behavior in children who have no obvious reason to have become autistic,” said Michael Chez, director of pediatric neurology with the Sutter Neuroscience Institute in Sacramento, Calif. and the study’s principal investigator.
Researchers have looked to stem cells to address numerous conditions in recent years ranging from cerebral palsy to cancer, given the cells’ unique ability to take on the characteristics of other types of cells or grow into tissue.