Legendary Formula One driver, Michael Schumacher, has left Georges-Pompidou hospital in Paris after pioneering stem cell therapy, in the hopes of improving his current condition.
Schumacher was in a skiing accident in December 2013 that caused devastating head injuries and put him in a coma for six months. Since then, he has been receiving treatment at home in Switzerland and hasn’t been seen in public. While his family are very private about the condition he is in, it’s understood that he can’t walk or stand and may have trouble with communication.
The person in charge of Schumacher’s care is world-renowned cardiac surgeon Philippe Menasch, who is working at the forefront of stem cell therapy.
Stem cells infusion is an exciting and rapidly developing form of regenerative medicine. Cord blood stem cells (HSCs) are one of the most established types and can effectively treat over 85 diseases and conditions. In fact, over 26,000 patients receive treatment with cord blood stem cells in Europe each year .
Crucially for Schumacher, stem cells are also being investigated to treat neurodegenerative disease and traumatic brain injuries. It’s understood that Schumacher’s surgery involved an IV infusion of stem cells into either the brain or heart in the hopes of repairing damaged tissue. Menasch has previously made comments about stem cells for cardiac conditions, an area of research still in its infancy:
Nobody really knows how stem cells are working. They do not permanently transplant into the myocardium [the muscular tissue of the heart] - after a couple of days or weeks, they just disappear. But you still may have a functional benefit as during their transient stay in the heart…as the cells release molecules into the tissue. The hypothesis is that the repair comes from the heart itself, stimulated by these molecules.
A University of Plymouth study published in the journal Cell Reports in June backs these claims, as it found that neural stem cells could be used to "wake up" and produce new nerve cells in the brain.
While there is still a high degree of uncertainty around Schumacher’s current condition or how the surgery went, it’s hoped that more details will be released soon.