It is an experimental treatment. So far no one has been able to demonstrate that it is capable of regenerating the central nervous system with autologous proteins with stem cells. But it is a hope. That is why Michael Schumacher's family has put the seven-time Formula 1 world champion in the hands of a cardiologist at his usual discretion.
But the secret has been broken by Le Parisien. In its Tuesday edition, the ambulance, a Geneva license plate, could be seen, in which the pilot was transferred to Paris. Victim of a head injury, product of a ski fall at the Méribel station on December 29, 2013. Since then, the few news about his condition come from some intimate who has visited him.
In fact, the only official medical part is that of the Grenoble hospital to which he was transferred, in a coma, that fateful day. Schumacher who survived the dangers of the 19-season car competition, broke his head when skiing (with a helmet) with his son. «Severe head trauma that has required immediate neurosurgical intervention. Vital prognosis compromised ».
At the end of 2014, a former French pilot who finished quadriplegic said that Schumacher "had not recovered the use of the word and communicated with his eyes." Philippe Streiff added that the rugged "began to recognize his own." The denial was immediate. Then, silence ...
It's Monday, September 9. It's 15.40. A stretcher reaches the first floor of the Georges Pompidou Hospital in Paris. The patient is hidden under a dark blue poop and surrounded by a dozen security agents. We are in the continuous care unit of the cardiovascular surgery service.
At the head of the procession, according to the story of Jean-Michel Décugis and Ronan Folgoas, an eminent doctor, Philippe Menasché, cardiac surgeon, 69 years. He is the head of the coronary unit of the center and director of INSERM, the national institute of medical research, dedicated to cellular therapy in cardiovascular diseases. The cold curriculum lacks the basic data: it is a pioneer in cell therapy that he applies in his specialty, cardiology.
Cellular therapy. There is the key. And the reason why Corinna Schumacher, wife of the former pilot since 1995, has put her husband, who has damaged the central nervous system, in the hands of a cardiologist.
To explain what cell therapy is, Crónica has asked for help from Eduardo Anitua, pioneer and expert in regenerative therapy, considered one of the world leaders in the field. He directs the Biotechnology Institute, which is in his native Vitoria. He works with traumatologist Mikel Sánchez and they managed to recover Nadal's patellar tendon.
«We started regenerating bone in the jaws, we continue with muscle, tendon and we already have several published works with positive results in peripheral nerves. In chronic lesions of these nerves we have managed to reverse situations that previously had no treatment, ”he explains.
What Schumacher's family intends is to "reverse their situation using the latest techniques in regenerative therapy, which is the application of autologous proteins [that is, obtained from the patient's blood] that infiltrate the damaged area." «It is sought that this plasma rich in growth factors stimulates the receptor, in this case, the central nervous system, to make it react. There are different protocols with or without stem cells. The reason for adding them is that they transport the proteins ».
His colleague Menasché, together with Jerôme Langhero, head of the cell therapy unit of another Parisian hospital, Saint Louis, has been experiencing how to regenerate injured heart cells in a heart attack for years.
The joint team of the two public hospitals achieved worldwide fame in 2014, when they implanted young cells, obtained from embryonic stem cells, from frozen embryos from in vitro fertilization in a 68-year-old woman with heart failure. According to Sciences Avenir, they implanted a 20 cm square patch on the infarcted area. Five patients have followed the same protocol of a trial "that has allowed to demonstrate the safety of this innovative therapy, but of hypothetical efficacy", was read in Le Parisien.
The results of the treatment on Schumacher are unknown. «Right now there are some stem cell protocols in different pathologies. None published with approval to apply to the nervous system. There are no conclusive results. We still don't know how, if it makes more sense to apply proteins or proteins with cells, what cells, how many and what concentration, ”explains Dr. Anitua.
Schumacher would have come a couple of times before to Paris. For medical exams. Always with the top secret. Arriving by helicopter. Entered with another name. Total discretion has been imposed from the beginning by Corinna.
After being intervened in Grenoble, in June 2014, the former pilot was transferred to the university hospital of Lausanne. Three months later, at his home in Gland (Switzerland), an impressive mansion surrounded by trees by the water. There a team of about 15 people takes care of him. Cost? It is estimated that 56,000 euros a week ...
The informative black out was about to break in the transfer from Grenoble to Lausanne, when a member of the ambulance team took over the medical dossier. He was arrested while trying to sell it. He took the secret to the grave because it appeared hung in August of the same year in his cell in the Zurich prison. Suicide.
The day after entering the Paris hospital, many media gathered the news of a hypothetical improvement of the great myth of Formula 1. They came from the conversation between two hospital employees, heard by Le Parisien outside the health center: «Yes , is in my service. And I can assure you that he is aware ».
It is advisable to be very cautious with these references, although all doctors point out the goodness of this type of therapy. "There is no risk of rejection, as long as you are applying your own proteins," says Anitua. In his view, Schumacher's family "is doing what needs to be done: clinging to science."
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