A research study led by Maurizio Battino and Francesca Giampieri, along with a group of researchers from the Universidad Europea del Atlántico (European University of the Atlantic, UNEATLANTICO), and supported by Jiangsu University, Zhenjiang, China, was published in the journal „Pharmacological Research“. The study examines various pharmacological, non-pharmacological, and stem cell therapies for the treatment of autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
In recent years, there has been an alarming increase in the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). It is estimated that in the United States, ASD is diagnosed in one out of 59 children, while in Europe, it affects one out of 89 children. ASD is characterized by limited and repetitive behavioral patterns, as well as difficulties in communication and social activities. Despite identifying several genetic and environmental risk factors associated with ASD, the mechanisms causing this disorder are not fully understood.
Currently prescribed medications for the treatment of ASD mainly focus on controlling some associated symptoms. However, none of them are effective in combating the core symptoms of ASD, such as communication difficulties and social interaction, as well as the presence of restricted and repetitive behaviors. In this context, there is a need to explore alternative therapies.
The researchers conducted a study titled „Pharmacological, non-pharmacological and stem cell therapies for the treatment of autism spectrum disorders: A focus on human studies,“ where they investigated new therapies based on the use of stem cells. The study revealed that the transplantation of hematopoietic and mesenchymal stem cells in children with ASD has shown promising results. These stem cells stimulate the recruitment, proliferation, and differentiation of native stem cells in the body, reduce inflammation, and alleviate some of the problems associated with ASD. These cells are characterized by their ability for self-renewal and differentiation into various cell types, making them an attractive option for the regeneration of damaged cells in the brains of individuals with ASD.
Although the research study is still in its early stages, promising studies have been conducted on animal models and some clinical cases in humans. If positive results are confirmed, stem cell therapies could offer genuine hope for alleviating some of the challenges associated with ASD and developing new therapeutic approaches.
On the other hand, non-pharmacological therapies have also been explored to treat ASD-associated comorbidities such as immune deficiency, gastrointestinal disorders, and dysbiosis of the gut microbiota. Specific dietary supplements, such as certain vitamins, polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, and some secondary plant compounds (e.g., luteolin and sulforaphane), as well as general dietary interventions, such as gluten- and casein-free diets, have been considered to reduce such comorbidities and improve the quality of life for people with ASD.
In summary, the complexity of ASD requires a multidimensional approach to its management. Current pharmacological therapies only address a portion of the symptoms and need to be complemented by other more holistic therapy approaches to achieve better results. Stem cell transplantation and non-drug therapies could represent new hope for those facing the challenge of ASD. Moreover, it is important to further advance research in this area to make even more therapeutic progress and improve the quality of life for people with ASD.
Universidad Europea del Atlántico