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Couple Travels to China to Remedy Inherited Brain Disorder

By Chris Morris, The Canadian Press, April 3, 2007

Convinced that Chinese doctors have discovered the secret promise of stem-cell therapy, a couple from New Brunswick is setting out on a journey of hope to the Far East.

Other Canadians as well as Americans have traveled to China for the adult stem cell treatments designed to help those with crippling diseases. J.C. and Cherie of Oromocto will now follow the same path.

Causing deterioration in the region of the brain responsible for muscles and movements, J.C. has a hereditary brain disorder called Machado Joseph Disease. For the 39 year old man, there is no known cure.

Speaking and walking are difficult for J.C., and with unbalanced steps and slurred speech, some people think he is drunk when he goes out with their three children says Cherie.

"At first, it progressed slowly," Cherie says of the disease, looking fondly at J.C. in their cozy, rural New Brunswick home.

"But then in the last two years it has been bad. I think in the next couple of years if we don't get this treatment, then he could require 24-hour care. We're grateful this treatment is out there. We're excited."

In late April, the couple will arrive in Shenzhen, China, where they will spend a month of their lives. At the clinic, doctors will inject stem cells into J.C.’s spine. Intensive physiotherapy and deep acupuncture will also be part of the treatment protocol. The mix of “Chinese medicine” will help direct the stem cells to the areas of the brain that require restoration.

< p>Chinese hospitals have treated individuals suffering from a multitude of conditions including, MS, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, and spinal cord injuries. Many of the patients have reported improvement in their condition following treatment.

Cherie is going in not expecting miracles.

"We realize it's not a cure," Cherie says. "We're just looking for a better quality of life"

More than $30,000 was raised by friends, neighbors, and community events to help pay for the cost of the trip and treatment in China.

J.C.’s doctors were not endorsing the treatment, and Cherie says they had a difficult time convincing his doctors that the trip would be worth it. J.C.’s neurologist said “baloney” when he first heard that they were considering the treatment, but has since agreed to monitor J.C.’s progress.

The claims of successful treatment in China using stem cells has not been accepted with open arms by the Canadian medical community.

"Instead of going from A to B, a lot of practitioners in places like China and Russia have simply jumped from A to Z," says Dr. John Steeves, professor of neurosurgery at University of B.C..

But when it comes to new treatments, both Cherie and J.C. feel that Canadian medicine is too slow.


 

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