Role of stem cell therapy autism spectrum disorders 

The National Medical Commission has recently recommended against the use of stem cell therapy (SCT) in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) after had constituting a committee of experts. Further, the use, promotion and advertisement for use of stem cell therapy in children with ASD will be considered a professional misconduct.

January 09, 2023 04:07 pm | Updated 04:07 pm IST

This is a welcome step by the NMC. This recommendation has come at a time when there has been an increase in the number of advertisements for use of SCT in areas which have no clear evidence for its use. ASD is a chronic developmental behavioral disorder in which children find it difficult to communicate and speak. Kids with ASD typically are “lost in their own world”, can have other features like preference for sameness, liking to do the same thing over and over again, extreme likes and dislikes and apprehension in crowded areas. The treatment is predominantly therapies and the results take a long time to become evident. Prolonged treatment and slow improvement results frequently result in parental desperation. the centers providing the SCT prey on these gullible parents who are willing to go any extents to see their children improve.

The NMC regulation has been welcomed by the pediatricians and specialists who take care of children with ASD. It will help to curb the unethical and un-evidence-based practices currently prevalent for use of SCT.

As doctors, we frequently encounter patients who ask this question whether SCT is going to help their child as they come across SCT as a treatment option on internet. In addition to not having significant evidence favoring its use till now, SCT is costly. Having a regulation to fall back on will definitely help us counsel parents. A thorough discussion with the treating clinician is of utmost importance before considering for SCT for ASD kids. Autism is a difficult road, and interventions take time to show results which may vary from child to child. Consistent therapies are the key to successful outcomes. Early recognition is another aspect that can result in early interventions. Anytime parents have any concerns with speech and language development like baby not responding to her name by 9 months, seems to be ‘busy’ on her own, does not make eye contact, has not started babbling by a year or does not point using her forefinger, they should raise this concern with their pediatrician who can then guide them to an appropriate person for diagnosis and intervention. If baby is found to be at high risk for developing autism or is diagnosed as autism, focus should be on speech, occupation and applied behavior therapies for autism; some children may also need sensory integration therapy for sensory issues. Medicines for some issues like hyperactivity, aggression or sleep issues may be prescribed as per your child’s requirements by your doctor. Upfront, having zero screen exposure in 1st 2 years of life and focusing upon unstructured, one-to-one play time with a baby is very essential. Too much screen exposure takes away from children the time they should be spending actively interacting and picking up on social and language milestones from their family.

Till the time further, good quality research on the role of SCT in ASD is available, parents should not fall into the trap of getting SCT for their children.

Dr.PRABHJOT KAUR MBBS, MD Paediarics, DNB Paediatrics, DM Pediatrics Neurology

Consultant- Pediatric Neurology

Rainbow Children’s Hospital, Marathahalli, Bengaluru

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