Seven-time Formula One champion, Michael Schumacher, has reportedly received a pioneering stem cell treatment for heart failure this week.
The French daily Le Parisien has reported that the 50-year-old retired German racing driver is in the cardiovascular department in Georges-Pompidou hospital. Whilst there, he will receive treatment by well-known clinical cardiac surgeon, Philippe Menasché.
Professor Menasché is renowned for his long-standing interest and devotion to researching stem cell treatments for heart failure, and has been described as a ‘pioneer in cell surgery’.
It is said that Schumacher is receiving stem cell transfusions which will produce an anti-inflammatory effect throughout his entire body. But what does this mean exactly and how does it work?
Stem cell therapy
Stem cells have been referred to as ‘the building blocks of life’, and rightly so. These cells are extremely powerful and unique. They are unspecialised, which means that they can differentiate and divide into various cell types, including brain, muscle and blood cells.
Stem cell therapy, a type of regenerative medicine, promotes the repair, regrowth and regeneration of damaged or diseased tissue within the human body. Stem cells essentially target the damaged area and develop into the cells that are needed to recover.
How do stem cells help heart conditions?
The heart is arguably one of the most complex and vital organs contained within the human body and is comprised primarily of cardiac muscles cells called cardiomyocytes. These cells have very little regenerative capabilities and are often unable to heal on their own unless a heart transplant is performed.
However, thanks to incredible advancements in medicine and technology, stem cells treatments now offer a way to supply the damaged area of the heart with stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes that replace damaged tissue with healthy, beating tissue.
Schumacher’s surgeon, Professor Philippe Menasché, made medical history in 2014 when he used stem cells to do just this. Surgery was performed on a 68-year-old patient who had heart failure.
As part of the stem cell treatment, Menasché embedded millions of stem cells in a ‘patch’ attached to the heart, which enabled a new layer of healthy heart muscle to grow and leading to a significant increase in heart muscle strength and function.
The trial was an overall success, resulting in noteworthy improvements to the patient’s condition and creating a momentous victory within the medical landscape.
million people living with heart and circulatory disease in the UK
of all deaths in the UK are caused by heart diseases and conditions
hospital admissions each day are due to heart attacks
What else can stem cell therapies treat?
Stem cells can not only be used to treat heart conditions but they also have the ability to treat over 80 other diseases and conditions. They have the potential to act as a powerful tool for treating diseases, disorders and conditions
Many other stem cell therapies are currently in clinical trial stages and are being investigated in studies to treat everything from autism and cerebral palsy to hearing loss, providing exciting and potentially life-changing developments for future medical use.
Other sportspeople using stem cell treatments
Alongside Michael Schumacher, stem cell treatments are becoming increasingly popular within the world of sport, providing treatments for injuries and speedy recovery times. Tennis stars such as Rafael Nadal have used stem cell injections to facilitate recovery from back pain. Other athletes such as legendary baseball player, Bartolo Colon, received stem cell therapy to treat collateral ligament tears in his elbow, which ‘saved’ his career.
Schumacher will reportedly leave the Parisian hospital two days after his stem cell therapy. His family have released a statement saying that he is in “the very best of hands”. We wish him all the best in a speedy recovery.