Stem cell therapies in cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorder

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2021 May;63(5):503-510. doi: 10.1111/dmcn.14789. Epub 2021 Jan 4.


Across disciplines, there is great anticipation that evolving cell therapies may finally provide a therapeutic option for conditions in dire need. These conditions are typically complex and their pathophysiology incompletely understood, hindering the development of robust preclinical models and the precise assessment of therapeutic effects in human studies. This article provides an overview of the status of cell therapy investigations in two common neurodevelopmental disorders, cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorder. Challenges facing this line of study, including inherent heterogeneity, knowledge gaps, and unrealistic expectations, are discussed. Much progress has been made in the past decade, but to definitively determine if cell therapies have a role in the treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders, both fields will need to evolve together. WHAT THIS PAPER ADDS: The safety profile of reported cell therapies in children with neurodevelopmental disorders is encouraging. Efficacy trials in cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorder are ongoing in the United States and Asia. Unresolved issues pertain to the properties of the cells being studied and the characteristics of the neurodevelopmental conditions themselves.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / therapy*
  • Cerebral Palsy / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Stem Cell Transplantation / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome