New Hope After Brave Family Tries Stem Cell Treatment For Daughter's Autism

"I forgot how bad it was," her mother says.

Could A New Stem Cell Therapy Be The Answer To Autism?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder and there are still a lot of unknown's when it comes to understanding the disorder. However, groundbreaking stem cell research is giving hope for families who have children with autism.

The study, which wrapped its first phase at Duke University, is showing the potentials of stem cell as an autism treatment. Researchers are still hesitant to make assumptions on these initial results, but for the Gregory's, a family who took part in this study, the change in their daughter has been monumental.

Hope For Families With Children Who Have Autism:

Gracie has autism, a condition that affected nearly every aspect of her family's life after she was diagnosed at 2. But a new study is offering hope for the Gregory's and families like them.

Beneath her brilliant blue eyes Gracie Gregory smiles. She's proudly sitting on her mother's lap, next to her older sister, Ryleigh, who brags about how "sweet and kind," Gracie is now.

However, it wasn't always so. Just a few years ago, Ryleigh, 11, was scared of her sister. She'd throw tantrums and screaming fits. Ryleigh said that it would have been impossible to sit like this next to Gracie, "Because of the kicking."

Gracie, 7, interrupts:

"I don't even remember it."

Her mother interjects:

"We do," says Gina Gregory.

New Stem Cell Study Offers Promising Results For Children With Autism:

Experts used the children's own umbilical blood cord in easing the symptoms of autism. They saw a significant improvement in the kids' behavior and wrote their findings in the journal Stem Cells Portal.

Twenty-five children with autism under 6-years-old took part in the stem cell research nearly a year and a half ago, including Gracie Gregory. Her parents told CNN they saw big and dramatic changes in their child after undergoing the clinical trial.

Gracie's autism disorder, diagnosed at 2-years-old, often resulted in tantrums and affected her daily routines by 75 percent. After the trial, her parents pegged her improvement as an eight or a nine, on a scale of one to 10.

Gracie also showed she's coping well in regular school. "You still see some of the small idiosyncrasies that she does have," dad Wade Gregory said. "But again, I think it's supercharged her learning curve. It's pushed her to do things she normally wouldn't do."

The Cure For Autism In Billions Of Cells:

The children in the trial received blood transfusions and underwent evaluations, MRI and EEG tests at least three times. Six months after the first round of assessments, some of the children with autism already demonstrated marked improvements in the way they communicated and behaved.

Dr. Joanne Kurtzber of the Robertson Clinical and Translational Cell Therapy Program worked on cord blood stem cell treatments for other diseases for two decades. She wondered if the process was also feasible in helping children with autism.

So, she collaborated with Dr. Geraldine Dawson and her team from Duke University for this study. Marcus Foundation funded their research. They announced the undertaking of the trial's second phase among a larger number of participants next, as per the press release.

At the Gregorys' home in Florida, Gracie's parents remember when she went through those same tests. The best investment they ever made, they say, was the $2,000 spent on banking her cord blood. At the time, it was just a precaution; her autism diagnosis didn't come until three months after her second birthday.

They know the desperation of families raising a child with autism -- of longing for their daughter to have a shot of normalcy in life. "You can't quantify it. You can't measure it. You want to see your child succeed," her father says.

Mom and Dad recently watched old home videos, of Gracie singing inaudibly, of her covering her ears when "Happy Birthday" was sung for her third birthday, of showing no emotion on Christmas when she was 2. "I forgot how bad it was," her mother says.

They hope the current study leads to similar successes -- and results in breakthrough treatment for autistic children everywhere.

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