January 16, 2021

The Niche

Trusted stem cell blog & resources

Autism

6 min read

Last week I wrote a long post detailing the troubling multimillion-dollar reverberations between the Duke autism program and a for-profit stem cell clinic in Panama called The Stem Cell Institute. The potential entanglements between the Duke group and the Panama clinic raise a bunch of questions and concerns. They center on questionable, unproven autism “treatments”. In Duke’s case, their own clinical trial showed there was no benefit, but they forging ahead anyway. Muddy waters This Duke-stem cell clinic situation is a prime example of …Read More

9 min read

There is a puzzle when it comes to the controversial idea of using cord blood for autism, because two of the strongest proponents are the autism cord blood program at Duke and for-profit, unproven stem cell clinics. On first glance it seemed like this was a bit of an odd couple to me. The links between the Duke autism program and one particular Panamanian stem cell clinic called generically enough “The Stem Cell Institute” appear to go beyond just their enthusiasm about cord blood …Read More

2 min read

A few times a month I do a recommended reads kind of post on more than just stem cells, which people seem to appreciate as a condensed list of new science and medicine. Scientists might ask each other, “what’s in your to-read list?” rather than “what’s in your wallet?” Here are some of the things I’m hoping to get to in coming days or have already taken a look at that seem worth a read. If you want to see last week’s reads here …Read More

7 min read

A solid new, blinded placebo-controlled Phase II study from a Duke team clearly shows no benefit of cord blood for autism. Surprisingly, the team has said they are encouraged by the results. As a result, they apparently will continue this kind of work anyway despite their data. In contrast, I see the data as a probable stop sign. Few have been as upbeat over the years as this Duke team about the idea of cord blood for autism spectrum disorder. I have been one …Read More

7 min read

Amongst all that is bouncing around within the stem cell clinic maelstrom out there, one thing stands out for me as the most troubling. I’m talking about for-profit experimentation on children, such as injection of kids with unproven stem cells for autism or cerebral palsy by unproven clinics. In my opinion it’s almost always going to be risky and unethical. Doing any clinical research on children requires extra care and planning even within an FDA-approved clinical trial context. Obviously pediatric clinical trials are crucial, …Read More

6 min read

Stem cells for autism? After watching this area for many years, I’m not sure there’s any “there there”. There are logical reasons to think that certain stem cells might help many specific diseases, but in my view autism isn’t likely to be one of them. I hope I’m wrong, but today at least in 2018, it’s not looking promising. To be clear, I’m not talking about indirectly using stem cells for non-clinical trial research to provide conceptual and translational insights into autism spectrum disorder, …Read More

3 min read

Some notable newly published Phase II data from the Duke cord blood for cerebral palsy trial unfortunately doesn’t give much reason for optimism that this approach is going to have a substantial positive effect for these kids. The double-blinded, placebo-controlled study did not find a meaningful benefit overall from infusions of autologous cord blood (ACB) for children with cerebral palsy. It didn’t meet its primary endpoint. The study was published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine and was entitled, “Effect of Autologous Cord Blood Infusion on Motor …Read More

4 min read

When patient families reach out to me, one of the most common questions is whether stem cells for autism offer real hope. The short answer at this time remains “no”. Of course, it’s not as simple as just “no” because there isn’t enough data to be sure, but there is reason for major skepticism about the use of stem cells for autism. I’ve covered this topic a number of times over the years because patients and families want to know and because it is …Read More

3 min read

In 2014, I reported on a groundbreaking, but debated Duke stem cell-based clinical trial being launched for autism. Where does that trial stand today? (note that as of 2018-2020 I am very skeptical about stem cells for autism) The cord blood trial has continued. It is led by Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, whom I interviewed about cord blood stem cells back in 2013 (see part 1 and part 2), where she provided some fascinating background. It is also notable that on the stem cell autism trial front, other efforts …Read More