Duke University recently received $15 Million from the Marcus Foundation to fund a new study on possible cord blood cures for autism. The money coming from the Atlanta-based philanthropic organization will finance two out of the five years of study.

The full study will cost $41 million in total and will be headed by Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, chief scientific and medical officer of Duke’s Robertson Cell and Translational therapy program and Geraldine Dawson, director of the Duke Center for Autism and Treatment.

These types of studies are not new to the famed Durham, North Carolina university. In 1993 Kurtzberg and her team completed the first successful transplant of unrelated cord blood. These breakthroughs prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve Duke’s use of the stem cell product DUCORD in 2012. Duke is the third blood cord bank in the United States to receive this approval.

Chancellor for health affairs and president and CEO of Duke University’s Health care system Victor Dzau told Triangle Business Journal:

“I’m excited about this unprecedented opportunity. Joanne Kurtzberg has done groundbreaking work on cord blood transplants at Duke, and Geri Dawson brings in an enormous wealth of knowledge and experience of autism. Together they will explore innovative approaches to treating these challenging brain disorders.”

The study will contain a series of clinical trials using umbilical cord blood cells. Along with autism, the dynamic duo hopes to find treatments for sufferers of stroke and cerebral palsy. The projects volunteers consist of 390 children and adults with autism, 100 children with cerebral palsy, and 90 adults with stroke.

Kurtzberg told the Journal,

“The whole program has enormous potential. Autism, stroke, and cerebral palsy are neurologic conditions that impair function and quality of life for these children and adults. If we can make it better it will have a huge personal and societal impact.”

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