A desperate injection of stem cells and hope
"The information has no scientific credibility and it may mislead people who are seeking treatment and cures for serious diseases," she wrote of the BioMark website.

Several stem cell experts who reviewed the website for the Los Angeles Times agreed.

Cord blood stem cells have been used to treat some blood diseases and to rebuild the blood-forming system after chemotherapy. But scientists doubt they would be useful for neurological diseases because current evidence suggests that any ability to transform into non-blood cells is limited.

On the Internet, satisfied BioMark customers described improvements, such as smoother skin, better sleep and more energy — sometimes within hours of their injections. Scientists leave open the possibility that the patients are experiencing more than the placebo effect, but without controlled clinical trials it is difficult to know what is happening.

"This is just evil," said Lawrence Goldstein, a professor of cellular and molecular medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Dr. Irving Weissman, a Stanford University professor and the first person to isolate blood-forming stem cells, concluded: "It's totally disgusting."

After the FDA search, Brown and Van Rooyen left the United States.


Amonth after his injection, Tom swore that it was easier to close his mouth.

Valerie was skeptical, but Tom told her to be patient. "Six to eight weeks," he would say, echoing BioMark's claims about how long it would take to start seeing the biggest benefits.

By the two-month mark, his breathing had plunged to 46% of normal.

When Tom could no longer climb the stairs to his office, he spent his days in a living room recliner, a computer in his lap.

His son, Thomas, had taken the year off from college to help care for his father. Thomas struggled now to transfer him in and out of the lift installed in the stairwell. His father's body was turning to dead weight.

At this late stage, Valerie wished that Tom could help patch the holes of their life — apologies, advice for their children, regrets, kind words that could help her carry on without him.

She begged him to make peace with his life.

"Why are you so mean to me?" Tom typed on his synthesizer. "You want me to die soon."

"No, we want you to talk with us," Valerie said. "Isn't there something you want to tell us?"

Tom just shook his head.

She asked whether he wanted to be buried or cremated. He turned up the volume on the television to drown her out.