A Mt. Juliet woman stricken by a degenerative disease is fighting for bits of her own body tissue.
Ashley Vickers is very busy, juggling four kids and a deadly disease. Her symptoms first started during her fourth pregnancy, four years ago.
“My hands would twitch and I would fall,” said Vickers, with daughter Hannah helping her speak. “I didn’t think anything of it.”
Ashley learned she has ALS. With no known cure, she turned to a controversial treatment: stem cell research.
She and her husband would take two trips to Russia for the treatment, costing roughly $80-thousand.
“Going to Russia, it was scary. It’s so far away, and it was my first time out of the country,” Ashley explained. “It put my disease on hold, it got no worse.”
Big news would come last year. Ashley and family learned of a stateside procedure, where stem cells are taken from fat tissue.
Her cells were stored in Florida by US Stem Cell clinic. The injection procedures took place at New Life Medical Groups in Brentwood. But after four treatments, her cells are now sitting on ice.
“She gets a message from her doctor, saying the FDA had put a stop to the stem cells,” said daughter Hannah. “And that was that.”
It’s a legal battle that stems back years. The FDA has long sought to shut the procedures down, due to lack of oversight and FDA approval.
A federal judge granted an injunction this month, blocking the Florida clinic from continuing the treatments. In the meantime, Ashley’s cells are stuck.
While the science is certainly unsettled on this procedure, Ashley believes it works, and says her cells are her property.
“It’s gut wrenching. The cells belong to me, they came from my body,” she said. “They’re the only reason I’m alive.”
A spokesperson with US Stem Cell clinic tells News 2 their legal department is working on a response, hoping to have cells returned to their owners.