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When desperate parents are looking for medical treatment for their kids, especially their autistic kids, they often do two things: They look up information about a program at Duke University, and then, in short order, they go to GoFundMe. The fundraising site is full of pleas that often mirror one another, in essence saying: My child has one hope, and that hope is in stem cell and cord blood treatments. 

This hope, though, is attached to treatments that are hotly disputed at best, unproven at worst, and often very expensive in either case. At Duke University’s Marcus Center for Cellular Cures, parents can enroll their children into a number of clinical trials that aim to study the effects of cells derived from umbilical cord blood on treating the effects of autism and brain injuries; adults can also participate in a trial testing whether cord blood can help them recover from ischemic strokes. And when parents can’t get their children into any of these clinical trials, particularly for autism, they often opt for what’s called the Expanded Access Program (EAP)... see more