January 20, 2021

The Niche

Trusted stem cell blog & resources

Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg

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

4 min read

Katie Thomas at the New York Times reports that BARDA has dropped considering funding applications for stem cells for COVID-19. The move is part of a larger shift in funding priorities away from lung treatments and toward vaccine development. The decision has puzzled and even angered some stem cell firms and researchers. BARDA stands for Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. It has become a core decision maker related to funding for COVID-19. The BARDA shift can be found in a few notices such …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

2 min read

What’s the scoop on stem cells for autism? Could stem cells make a real difference for autism patients and their families? CNN has a big, high-profile new article out today on the Duke stem cell trial for autism that has been ongoing for a while and I’m wondering how good a job CNN did on this one. Too often media over-hype stem cells and this includes for autism. I’ve covered the Duke trial before here and here, which is run by Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, a scholar in …Read More

3 min read

Is there real promise of stem cells for autism? At this point the jury remains out on that question, but a growing number of kids are nonetheless getting such “treatments” at for-profit dubious clinics. Academic clinical researchers are interested in this area as well. Still, the potential use of stem cells to treat autism is a highly controversial area even in a clinical trial setting. Today it was announced in a piece on the website of the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative that a dramatically …Read More

2 min read

I recently conducted an interview with Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg of Duke. You can see Part 1 of the interview here. Today in Part 2, I asked Dr. Kurtzberg some broader questions about the stem cell field. 1. How concerned are you about non-compliant stem cell interventions here in the US as well as stem cell tourism? Perhaps because of my blog, I get contacted by parents of pediatric patients lately at least once a week about possible stem cell treatments for CP, autism, and …Read More

4 min read

Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg is a stem cell pioneer and has advanced the development of innovative stem cell therapies including those based on umbilical cord blood. She is a faculty member at Duke where she conducts her clinical research. I recently interviewed Dr. Kurtzberg and below is Part 1 of 2 of the interview. Part 2, which has fascinating insights on helping patients steer clear of non-compliant clinics, what excites Kurtzberg the most about stem cells, and her view of the future of the field …Read More