At 4-years-old Rydr Rudgers is able to eat, speak, and walk -- all things his family wasn't sure he'd ever do after being diagnosed with cerebral palsy as an infant.
"He was born without any brain stem functions; no sucking, no swallowing, no breathing," said Rydr's mother Elisa.
When Rydr was 15-months-old, he began stem cell infusions from his cord blood that was saved in a stem cell bank. Rydr is making great progress after three infusions and can even feed himself.
"These are like huge milestones that people don't think about, but actually being able to hold a fork and eat a sandwich is, in our world, an unanticipated milestone and it's amazing," Elisa Rudgers explained.
"Like autism, cerebral palsy or brain injuries of that nature are a diffused population, it's not one cause," said Dr. Michael Chez, who is the Medical Director of Pediatric Neurology at the Sutter Neuroscience Institute.
Doctors at the Sutter Neuroscience Institute are now beginning research to evaluate cord blood stem cells to help improve language and behavior in autism patients.
The announcement was made on Tuesday morning at Sutter Medical Plaza. It's the first FDA-approved clinical trial that uses a newborn's stem cells from cord blood to treat autism patients.
Doctors will infuse umbilical cord stem cells into the bloodstreams of 30 children diagnosed with autism.
"We feel it will offer a safe and effective answer to the question of whether the cord blood is an effective intervention as a way to introduce stem cell therapy for autism," Chez said.