Today Leah Hochbaum, Cell-El’s Recruitment Coordinator interviews Dr Benjamin (Beni) Gesundheit, Cell-El’s Founder about the story that inspired the study.
Beni, what inspired you to create Cell El and study immune dysfunction and stem cell therapy in Autism?
Several years before I started the study, after having worked as a pediatric oncologist at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, I worked in a very innovative private clinic. I was in charge of following the patients undergoing treatment.
One day L brought her son N with severe autism to the clinic. We couldn’t contain him. He was all over the place destroying everything. He was self-abusive with terrible head-banging. L wanted her son treated with autologous mesenchymal stem cells. That means the stem cells are harvested from the child’s own bone marrow and transplanted back into his body. N was treated at the clinic and I was in charge of the follow up report.
What did you observe? What happened to N?
The child’s EEG totally changed. He stopped his self-abusuve head banging behavior. I was amazed.
Where did that lead you?
First I went to the head of the clinic and asked how he understood what we observed. Why he chose to treat this child with stem cell therapy? His answer was ‘why not?’ Such a challenging condition, it was worth a try. However that answer wasn’t satisfying enough for me.
With the encouragement of a good friend, I left the clinic and started reading all of the literature on the subject. Days turned to weeks and months. After about a year, I was ready to begin my own study in stem cell therapy for Autism.
What did that actually mean?
First of all, one can’t truly research a medical treatment for Autism without understanding the medical condition – what it is that you are treating. I first studied what is unique medically to children with Autism making them different from typically developing children. With that Cell-El began.
Where do you see Cell El today – 6-7 years later?
While I was involved in all those hours of research, I composed a paper analyzing the theoretical difference between therapy with donor cells versus therapy with the child’s own cells. Now all these years later, after creating the beginnings of a blood test which we hope will be able to be used both diagnostically and to track treatment progress, I am at the point where this is no longer a theoretical paper but the actual study which I am set to perform.
It is very exciting to meet the families and the children – to hopefully observe their progress and to even begin to explain the underlying mechanism of change.
Help Us Help You
You too can join our team and help us in making a difference in the lives of children with ASD and their families! For the Cell-El study, we are recruiting infants aged 10-18 months not diagnosed with ASD but with a sibling diagnosed with ASD and their mothers. Parents please help spread the word to others and thus enable this important tool to be integrated into Autism treatment as quickly as possible. Additionally, if your child is diagnosed with ASD and between the ages of 2-12 years old and you are planning to take them privately to a clinic offering Stem Cell treatment for ASD, please contact Leah at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the form to find out about eligibility to participate in our diagnostic study.