The Doctors talk to Ali, a woman who has three younger brothers all with different degrees of autism. Her brother Michael is 24 years old and has the most severe autism amongst the siblings. He is non-verbal, epileptic and blind.
Michael’s blindness is a result of his optic nerve atrophy. He was diagnosed at age 13 by a neurologist but Ali says no one could explain why or how it happened. She feels for her brother whose world she says “was already so small, so once he lost his sight his small world got even smaller.” She asks The Doctors if they know of any new technology or treatment for this condition.
The Doctors call on eye surgeon Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler to answer Ali’s questions. He shares that optic nerve atrophy could be caused by MS, inflammation such as temporal arteritis, tumors or strokes. Dr. Wachler says there is a lot of hope for Ali’s brother because in an experimental setting stem cell therapy is being used as a treatment to help people regain vision who have lost it to optic nerve atrophy.
The study is taking cells from bone marrow and injecting them into the tissue surrounding the optic nerve as a way to help regenerate the tissue.
OB/GYN Dr. Nita Landry asks who is a good candidate for this. Dr. Wachler says it’s still early but people who have optic nerve atrophy have been responding well, so as long as there is no active inflammation at the time it’s holding great promise.
The Doctors tracked down a clinical study near Ali’s home that performs the therapy and they have agreed to look at her brother’s case to determine if he would be an eligible candidate for this type of stem cell injection treatment! Ali says this treatment sounds incredible. She adds, “It would change his life, it would change my family’s life, it would make everyone around this house a lot happier.”