How Cord Tissue Changed my Son’s Life
Gage is a very photogenic little boy who is five years old and attends a mainstream class at his school. People meeting him would not guess right away that he has autism.
Gage was conceived by IVF, but was born naturally after a full term pregnancy. His parents decided to partially delay cord clamping, just enough to give Gage some extra cord blood, but not too long because they privately banked the rest of the cord blood.
By age six months, a few signs were emerging that Gage might have a problem. His crawl was asymmetric, he made repetitive movements, and he did not make eye contact. Gage’s mom, Renee, started to worry about her son.
At age two, Gage was diagnosed as having Autism Spectrum Disorder. His diagnosis was at level 2, which means that the child requires substantial support. Gage was still not verbal, and interacted socially like a six month old baby. It seemed to Renee as if Gage was “stuck inside his own head”.
Upon receiving the diagnosis, Renee says that she “dove in like a crazy lady”. She joined support groups, read everything she could find about autism, and started doing therapies with Gage. Along the way, Renee learned about the potential of stem cell therapy for children with autism. Renee tried to enroll Gage in the expanded access protocol at Duke University, but the family was disappointed to learn that Gage’s cord blood was contaminated with E. Coli bacteria and could not be used. Then Renee turned to look for trials and clinics that treat autism with mesenchymal stem cells (MSC).
Gage received his first cell therapy for autism near his third birthday. The treatment consisted of an intravenous infusion of MSC from the Wharton’s Jelly of donated umbilical cord tissue. The MSC product had been prepared by a laboratory in the United States. The treatment was delivered by one of Gage’s regular doctors not far from home. The total expenses of the therapy were a small fraction of what it would cost to get therapy at an overseas clinic.
Gage had been non-verbal until age three, but after the treatment with MSC from cord tissue, he added new words almost daily. Three weeks afterwards he told his mom for the first time, “I love you so much”.
Since then, Gage has received another four treatments with MSC from cord tissue. Now, at age five, Gage is so outgoing that he never stops talking. Sometimes, when he is driving Renee crazy, she has to stop and remember how she prayed for him to talk.
Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood asked Renee what insights and advice she has for other parents of young children with autism. She pointed out that MSC therapy for autism is experimental and when parents try it they are taking a chance that it may not work. But she felt that if she had not tried the therapy, she would regret it and wonder if it could have made a difference. She also feels that parents should be realistic and not expect a “cure”, but to hope that the stem cells will “help” and they will see improvements in their child’s skills.