An 11-year-old British boy with autism has spoken the first full sentence in his life hours after undergoing pioneering stem cell therapy in the US. It went ahead following a remarkable crowdfunding campaign.
Danny Bullen, who lives with his parents on the Spanish island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands, said his first ever full sentence the day after undergoing stem cell therapy and although it has not been followed up since, family members are hopeful that his speech will soon develop.
The 11-year-old, son of British writer Lee Bullen and Spanish teacher Irma Guanche, travelled to Miami in Florida in March and will hopefully return later this year for follow-up treatment.
The family has been delighted to see some early milestones regarding Danny's stem cell therapy and the online campaign helping to fund it.
The day after the treatment, Danny said to his mum while picnicking on the beach: "Dame mas papas, por favor (Give me some more crisps, please)." It was his first ever full sentence.
However, in the weeks since the therapy, Danny has not spoken any more full sentences and his parents have been told that it can take several months before noticing any real results.
With regards to the fundraising campaign, Lee and Irma were delighted to see it pass the 10,000-EUR ($16,730 NZD) mark after only two months.
Family members in Australia held a ticket event which raised 2,500 EUR ($4185 NZD) and the children's charity Helping Hands in Tenerife donated 1,000 EUR ($1673).
Meanwhile, the Ave Fenix Masonic Lodge in Los Cristianos presented Lee with a cheque for 1,000 EUR ($1673 NZD) and the Blevins Franks Charitable Foundation donated 650 EUR ($1087 NZD).
The rest has come from individual donations on Danny's GoFundMe page "Stem Cell Treatment for Non-Verbal Autistic Boy".
Young Danny, who is still unable to speak and requires his family's assistance for basic tasks such as using the toilet, has undergone numerous tests, and benefits from a gluten and lactose-free diet to improve a number of autoimmune disorders.
With the help of specialised groups and online communities, his parents heard about the fantastic results being achieved with autistic children in the field of adult stem cell therapy.
Lee, who wrote a book about coming to terms with Danny's condition called 'Beset', told Central European News (CEN): "Doctors introduced umbilical cord blood stem cells with cells from my son's bone marrow and adipose tissue.
"He had his first treatment in March, and the early signs are very encouraging. He is more alert and has already started to use a few new basic words and greetings."
"Undergoing stem cell therapy over two or three visits usually brings better results, which is why we hope to take Danny to the US at least twice.
"All symptoms related to ASD (Autism spectrum disorder) have completely disappeared in many young patients."
However, while early studies have shown promise for stem cell therapy as a potential treatment for autism, scientists believe it is still in its infancy and say more research is needed.
Meanwhile, one parent of an autistic child, who preferred to remain nameless, told CEN that she only experienced "modest results" after her daughter underwent stem cell therapy two years ago.
Last month, Danny's parents sent him to the Art and Science Surgicenter in Miami for treatment costing 15,000 USD ($22,000 NZD) and hope to travel again later this year for a 10,000-USD ($14,800 NZD) procedure.
Danny, who was diagnosed with autism in 2010 when he was two years old, is under the care of Dr Omar Lopez, who has many years of experience working with stem cell therapy.
To help with the costs, Danny's parents have launched a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe where they hope to raise 30,000 EUR ($50,000 NZD) for the two sessions and some of the travel and accommodation costs.