Autism, also referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), describes a spectrum of neurodevelopmental disorders most often diagnosed in young children and includes classic autism, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder. Each of the autism spectrum disorders affects brain development and impairs or alters normal communication, social and behavioral skills. There is no cure for ASD, which affects boys more than girls, and testing presents a number of challenges, however, early identification in the first 36 months allows interventions that can mitigate ongoing symptoms.

Currently there are no Health Canada or FDA approved stem cell treatments available for any of the disorders on the autism spectrum. Because so little is known about what causes autism spectrum disorder, a clinical stem cell treatment may well be years or decades away. The focus of research at present is to use stem cells to create models of ASD in order to study how it develops and what possible treatments might be beneficial in the future. Scientists are also investigating how the immune system and inflammation are involved in the development of ASD, and assessing whether stem cells could help play an anti-inflammatory role by modulating the immune system in patients.

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