Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), a neurological and developmental disorder that generally affect a person’s social interaction, ability to learn, communicate, and behaviour with others. ASD is an umbrella term for autism, Asperger’s syndrome, Rett’s disorder and childhood disintegrative disorder. Although ASD starts in early childhood, notable symptoms start appearing from the age around 12 to 18 months, while definitive diagnosis generally occurs around 24 to 36 months. In some cases diagnosis may be made into adulthood as ASD lasts throughout a person’s life.
Treatment modalities for ASD
Current treatments for autism can divided into behavioural, nutritional and medical approaches; although no defined gold standard treatment intervention exists with children suffering with ASD. Antipsychotic drugs have been showed to decrease behavioural abnormalities in autism. Many clinical trials where in hyperbaric oxygen, administration of zinc, anti-inflammatory drugs used, showing varying degree of success. Use of stem cell therapy represents the great promise for the future of molecular medicine and in autism.
The progression of several diseases can be slowed or even blocked by stem cell transplantation. Among the stem cell population, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) show probably the best potential good results in medical research. MSCs are a population of progenitor cells mainly found in bone marrow, adipose tissue, liver, tendons, synovial membrane, amniotic fluid, placenta, umbilical cord, and teeth etc. MSCs on transplantation migrate to sites of tissue injury where they differentiate according to cues from the surrounding tissues called ‘niche’ and inhibit the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. They also have strong immunosuppressive activity that renders them a useful tool for successful autologous, as well as heterologous transplantations without requiring immunosuppressive regimen. In addition, MSCs can readily be isolated from the patients requiring transplant or from their parents. There is also no tumour formation on transplantation without any ethical issues which surrounds embryonic stem cells.
Given that MSCs are multipotent cells with a number of potential therapeutic applications, and they represent a future powerful tool in regenerative medicine, including ASDs.
Immune modulation by MSCs in Autism
MSCs have a strong long-lasting immunosuppressive capacity. They suppress the immunoglobulin production, proliferation of T cells and maturation of dendritic cells all known to give rise to immune reaction. As immune system dysregulation occurs in ASDs, MSCs opens a wide range of cell mediated applications to control autoimmune reaction by providing unique tool for better resolution. MSC-mediated immune suppressive activity could restore this immune imbalance which gets disturbed in autism.
A decreased number of Purkinje cells in the cerebellum part of brain lead to defective cortical organization that further gives rise to ASDs development. In addition, non regulatory dendritic spine morphology and its maturation is one of the signs of autism. Stem cells can replace the injured brain cells and restore its function by promoting synaptic plasticity and functional recovery of Purkinje cells. The MSCs are not only involved in suppressing the autoimmune response of the host but they also stimulate the process known as hematopoiesis which is beneficial for treating T cell numbers associated with ASD.
Brain hypoperfusion and immune dysfunction are two major pathogenetic mechanisms that are associated with autism. Hypoperfusion is a main cause of hypoxia, abnormal metabolite or neurotransmitter accumulation which further gives rise to neural tissue damage. Therapeutically targeting cerebral ischemia and hypoxia can be an alternative approach for the autism treatment. However, studies have proven the ability of stem cells to overcome ischaemia, both in vitro and in vivo. Stem cells are known to trigger angiogenesis or new blood vessels formation by increasing endothelial progenitor cells population.
Clinical studies also revealed that the allogeninc stem cells derived from human umbilical cord and autologous MSCs derived from bone marrow are effective and safe mode of treating autism in combination with conventional behavioural therapy.
Cellular therapy is an emerging therapeutic modality with a great potential for the treatment of several diseases including autism. Various clinical trials so far have used human umbilical cord derived mesenchymal stem cells as a tool for patients suffering with autism. Thus a personalised stem cell treatment can be the most effective treatment for child suffering with autism, giving rise to a new era in effective management of ASD in future.
Advancells is a research oriented company focused on therapeutic applications of Regenerative Medicine. Pioneer in Stem cell Treatments in India, Advancells is passionate about the almost limitless potential of Human Stem Cells in providing a natural cure for any ailment that our body suffers from. With this belief they strive to deliver technologies for the safe and effective treatment options to patients all over the world at the highest medical standards. Advancells is a leading Stem Cell Therapy Centre with GMP and ISO 9001 certified lab. For more information, visit http://www.advancells.com
Dr. Sachin Kadam (Sachin.firstname.lastname@example.org)
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