As of today, there are around 30,000 people with autism in Israel, but the numbers are rising. About one in 100 children are diagnosed with autism, according to ALUT, the Israeli Society of Children and Adults with Autism, but the number is expected to reach one in 90 in the near future.
Umbilical cord blood is typically discarded at birth, but doctors and scientists are now calling on new mothers to collect and save the blood, that according to the latest studies could be a part of a life-changing treatment that provides hope for children with autism.
Among the institutions leading the research on the use of umbilical cord blood to treat autism is Sheba Medical Center, which is currently conducting a phase 2 trial on the subject. As part of the trial, patients receive a one-time infusion of their own cord blood cells. Initial results indicate that many patients benefited from improved communication and emotional and social responsiveness as a result of the treatment.
Dr. Omer Bar Yosef, a Sheba Medical Center neurobiologist, has thus far treated 25 children with autism as part of the Sheba trial. According to Dr. Bar Yosef, the treatment does not work for everyone, rather, “only certain subsets have shown improvement.” However, he added: “even if only 20% of those treated improve, it would be considered an amazing result.”
Hanna Abramovich-Biniachvili’s seven-year-old Avi received the treatment two years ago. Since then, Avi has been able to better control his moods and improve his interactions. “He started to speak, make eye contact,” she said. “We see such a dramatic improvement… There is a dramatic change that no previous treatment accomplished.”