Cord blood study provides insights on benefits, limitations for autism treatment

May 19, 2020

DURHAM, N.C. -- In a recent study, Duke researchers tested whether a single infusion of a unit of a child's own or donor cord blood could improve social communication skills in children between the ages of 2-7 diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Of the 180 children in the study, the subgroup of children without an intellectual disability showed improvements in language communication, ability to sustain attention measured via eye tracking, and increased alpha and beta EEG power, a measure of brain function.

However, those who also had an intellectual disability did not show social communication function improvement after the infusion.

The findings are publishing online May 19 in The Journal of Pediatrics.

"Cord blood contains immune modulating cells called monocytes," said Joanne Kurtzberg, M.D., Jerome S. Harris Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics, director of the Marcus Center for Cellular Cures and a pioneer in the use of cord blood treatments. "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."

Approximately 40 percent of children with autism also have an intellectual disability, as defined as an IQ below 70, according to 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.

More research is needed to determine why the findings in this study are different between those with and without an intellectual disability, and whether the treatment could be altered to be beneficial to more children.

"It is unclear whether the failure for children with intellectual disability is due to the short duration of the study, the outcome measures not being sensitive enough to detect 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," Dawson said.

"We learned a lot from this initial study," said Kurtzberg, senior author on the manuscript. "In the future, we hope to conduct a trial designed for children with autism who have intellectual disability focusing on outcome measures that can be targeted to test this group of children. We also used lessons learned from this study to design an ongoing study testing other cell therapies in older children with autism without intellectual disability."

"Overall, we are encouraged by these initial results and plan to build upon them in future studies of cellular therapies in children with autism," Kurtzberg said.
-end-
In addition to Dawson and Kurtzberg, study co-authors include Jessica M. Sun, Jennifer Baker, Kimberly Carpenter, Scott Compton, Megan Deaver, Lauren Franz, Nicole Heilbron, Brianna Herold, Joseph Horrigan, Jill Howard, Andrzej Kosinski, Samantha Major, Michael Murias, Kristin Page, Vinod K. Prasad, Maura Sabatos-DeVito, Fred Sanfilippo, Linmarie Sikich, Ryan Simmons, Allen Song, Saritha Vermeer, Barbara Waters-Pick and Jesse Troy.

The study was funded by The Marcus Foundation.

Duke University Medical Center

Related Autism Articles from Brightsurf:

Autism-cholesterol link
Study identifies genetic link between cholesterol alterations and autism.

National Autism Indicators Report: the connection between autism and financial hardship
A.J. Drexel Autism Institute released the 2020 National Autism Indicators Report highlighting the financial challenges facing households of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including higher levels of poverty, material hardship and medical expenses.

Autism risk estimated at 3 to 5% for children whose parents have a sibling with autism
Roughly 3 to 5% of children with an aunt or uncle with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can also be expected to have ASD, compared to about 1.5% of children in the general population, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Adulthood with autism
The independence that comes with growing up can be scary for any teenager, but for young adults with autism spectrum disorder and their caregivers, the transition from adolescence to adulthood can seem particularly daunting.

Brain protein mutation from child with autism causes autism-like behavioral change in mice
A de novo gene mutation that encodes a brain protein in a child with autism has been placed into the brains of mice.

Autism and theory of mind
Theory of mind, or the ability to represent other people's minds as distinct from one's own, can be difficult for people with autism.

Potential biomarker for autism
A study of young children with autism spectrum disorder published in JNeurosci reveals altered brain waves compared to typically developing children during a motor control task.

Autism often associated with multiple new mutations
Most autism cases are in families with no previous history of the disorder.

State laws requiring autism coverage by private insurers led to increases in autism care
A new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has found that the enactment of state laws mandating coverage of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was followed by sizable increases in insurer-covered ASD care and associated spending.

Autism's gender patterns
Having one child with autism is a well-known risk factor for having another one with the same disorder, but whether and how a sibling's gender influences this risk has remained largely unknown.

Read More: Autism News and Autism Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.