U.S. patients try stem cell therapies abroad

by Drew Griffin and David Fitzpatrick ,  CNN Health.com | 2009-06-02

It's shortly after 5 a.m. when the phone rings, and on the line is a clearly anxious and worried parent.

"Sierra is having a lot of problems tonight," Shaylene Akery tells a CNN producer. "We have to take her to the hospital, but we still want to talk to you about her trip to China."

Her daughter, Sierra Journey Factor, is 8 years old and has a terminal disease called Type 2 spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disorder that affects parts of the nervous system that control voluntary muscle movement. In addition, she has a restrictive lung disease and a kidney disorder. She has used a wheelchair since infancy.

Sierra's mother, her stepfather and her biological father, A.J. Factor, all know that Sierra is seriously ill. On the morning we met them, Sierra was treated at two hospitals before she was stabilized.

But the family is convinced of their next step -- taking Sierra on an arduous trip to southern China, where they believe the little girl will be injected six times with stem cells during a 34-day stay. It's the kind of treatment not yet approved in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration.

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