A desperate injection of stem cells and hope
"No, we'll do it," she said.

Valerie was still skeptical, but she felt a little better. Goddard seemed to know what he was talking about.

The stem cells could be injected into a vein, which BioMark said would bring the biggest results in three months, or into the fat of the abdomen for improvements that would come later but last longer.

Tom decided he would split the cells and do it both ways.

From the week he was diagnosed, he had told everybody that he would survive. He had fought so hard. This was a cure whose power nobody could deny.

At that moment, Valerie decided to duck out for a quick lunch.

Alone with the doctor, Tom felt the sting of two needles. In a few minutes, it was over.

Restoration had begun, he thought.


Laura Vanessa Brown, a co-founder of BioMark International, is 34 years old, tall, thin and blond.

"My background wouldn't naturally point me in this direction," she said in a telephone interview from a location she refused to specify. "I modeled for a long time."

Her father, Douglas Brown, an investment advisor in Waxhaw, N.C., said that Laura's job as a runway model sent her around the world through much of the 1990s. He said that she grew interested in nutrition and alternative medicine while watching her weight.

Laura Brown double-majored in speech and in radio and television at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She said her science education came unconventionally.

"I got to do a lot of studying and reading and writing while I was bouncing around not using my brain for work," she said.

In the late 1990s, she said, she landed in Los Angeles and studied yoga.

There, she met Steve van Rooyen. He had no science degree either, Brown said.

They became partners and headed to Atlanta in 2002 to work with Mitchell Ghen, an osteopath who had once treated Brown's father and had become interested in stem cells from umbilical cord blood.

But after a few months, the pair broke away to form BioMark, eventually relocating to an apartment in Miami Beach.

They worked hard to build their business, visiting doctors and alternative medicine practitioners to explain their treatment.