Apratim gets cord blood therapy for autism
Apratim of Kolkata, India, is now four years old. Although his birth was a month premature, as an infant he passed all his developmental milestones on time. It was not until he reached 18 months of age that his parents noticed his communication skills were not progressing like other children.
Apratim saw a specialist in Delhi who diagnosed him as having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Autism refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. Each person with autism presents differently, but has enough of the traits to be recognized as being on the spectrum.
Apratim’s family researched interventions to improve his language skills and tried several approaches. They learned that in 2014, the same year Apratim was born, Duke University launched the first in a series of clinical trials treating autism with cord blood stem cells.
Results from the first Duke trial of cord blood therapy for autism were published open access in April 2017. In that pilot study, participants showed significant improvements in measures of social skills, expressive vocabulary, severity of autism behavior patterns, and eye-tracking response to stimuli. The children’s scores were measured by both parents and clinicians using established behavioral scales developed for autism. The observed improvements appeared within 6 months of cord blood therapy.
In a press release from Duke University, lead investigator Dr Joanne Kurtzberg expressed “cautious optimism” but urged parents not to jump to conclusions:
Apratim’s cord blood had been stored since birth with LifeCell International, the largest family cord blood bank in India. His parents asked to participate in a clinical trial at Duke, and after a number of tests he was accepted. The therapy took place in the United States in July 2017.
In the 9 months since the cord blood therapy, his father says he has seen significant changes in Apratim. He is communicating more, his cognitive skills have improved, he’s started school, and he likes playing with his friends.