MICHAEL Schumacher is “conscious” after being taken to a Paris hospital for stem cell treatment, a nurse has revealed.
The positive news comes as Frenchman Jean Todt – the Formula One racing legend's former boss at Ferrari – visited his close pal for 45 minutes yesterday, says a report.
A pioneering surgeon specialising in stem cell breakthroughs has been treating the seven times World Champion driver at the Georges Pompidou Hospital in the French capital, where he arrived surrounded by guards on Monday.
He was admitted under tight security for transfusions of inflammation-reducing stem cells, part of ongoing care related to the horrific head injuries he suffered in a skiing accident almost six years ago.
Le Parisien reports that the state-of-the-art facility "has turned into a bunker" since the high-profile sportsman arrived.
Although there has been no indication as to his current state of health from the hospital, the paper quoted an unnamed nurse in cardiology saying: "Yes he is in my service.
"And I can assure you that he is conscious."
And at 5.15pm yesterday, Jean Todt visited Schumacher for 45 minutes "before quietly leaving the hospital", the paper adds.
An emergency intern also confirmed that the legend "is here".
The Paris hospitals authority, citing France's strict medical privacy rules, has not yet commented on his prognosis.
Le Parisien said the racing ace was welcomed at the hospital by French cardiac surgeon, Professor Philippe Menasche.
The 69-year-old is best known for performing the world’s first embryonic cell transplant on a patient with heart failure in 2014.
Now, it is hoped that he may be able to further Schumacher's recovery with his pioneering work.
The legend turned 50 on January 3, but has not been seen in public since the skiing accident.
POSTPONED OVER "SCARE"
The racing legend recently "suffered a fresh health scare" before being taken to the Pompidou hospital for cutting-edge stem cell treatment.
As a result, his treatment was postponed until this week because of an "unexpected health problem" over the summer.
Le Parisien reported earlier: "At the end of July, the driver was due to return for a new session at the hospital.
"But an unexpected health problem prevented this. The treatment was postponed to the beginning of this week, when Professor Menasche got back from holiday."
Schumacher was first examined by Prof Menasche at the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital, where he is a director of the Brain and Spinal Cord Institute, and then transferred to the George Pompidou for the stem cell treatment.
Le Parisien newspaper said the first sign of the legend, "was at 3.40 pm on Monday [when] a stretcher arrived on the first floor of Georges Pompidou European Hospital."
INFUSION OF STEM CELLS
Schumacher was transported to hospital in a blue and yellow ambulance registered in Geneva.
A blue cloth "completely covered his body and face" as he was taken into the continuous monitoring unit of the Cardiovascular Surgery Department.
He had a security contingent "of about ten people," the news outlet reported, adding that Prof Menasche was "in charge of the group".
Le Parisien said that "according to our information", the F1 ace could benefit from "infusions of stem cells that are distributed in the body to obtain a systemic anti-inflammatory action throughout the body".
The treatment was to have begun Tuesday morning, with Schumacher reportedly expected to return home on Wednesday.
Prof Menasche said details of Schumacher’s treatment would remain "secret" for reasons of medical confidentiality.
According to other unnamed sources, the champ made at least two visits to the Pompidou hospital earlier this year.
But he was admitted each time under a false name and treated by a small medical team, La Parisien added.
On both occasions, he arrived by helicopter from Switzerland and landed at a heliport in Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris.
During his first stay in the capital, Schumacher underwent tests at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, but key work by the professor was postponed until yesterday.
The seven time F1 champion suffered severe head injuries on a family skiing holiday in the French Alps on December 29 2013, and has not been seen in public since.
Schumacher was skiing with his son Mick when he fell and cracked his head on a boulder on the Combe de Saulire above Méribel.
He hit the right side of his head on the rock, splitting open his helmet. Doctors worked frantically to remove blood clots from his brain, but some were left because they were too deeply embedded.
The devastating injury left him paralysed and unable to speak.
Schumacher spent three months in a medically-induced coma after the accident and has had years of intensive care at his house in Gland, a Swiss town on the shore of Lake Geneva.
His condition now appears to have stabilised and in January this year he was taken by helicopter to the family's holiday home in Mallorca for his 50th birthday.
His long-time manager, Sabine Kehm, had no comment.
What is stem cell therapy and how does it work?
STEM cell therapy is one of the most promising new medical treatments.
Stem cells are the body's raw materials – the cells from which all cells in the body are generated.
In the lab, scientists can take stem cells and help them divide to create daughter cells.
These daughter cells can either become new stem cells or turn into specialised cells – blood, brain, heart muscle, bone cells for example.
Scientists and doctors across the world hope stem cells could prove the breakthrough for treating a range of conditions, from heart disease to cancer.
Stem cells can also be used to grow new tissue that can then be used for transplants and regenerative medicine.
It means in future, stem cells could be used to grow new organs rather than relying on organ donation.
How does it work?
One of the key ways stem cell treatment can work is to repair or regenerate damaged and diseased tissues.
By taking the cells and creating specialised heart muscle cells for example, doctors can help repair damaged heart muscle and use them to treat heart failure.
Who can benefit?
According to the Mayo Clinic in the US, patients with a wide range of illnesses and disease could benefit from the treatment.
They include those suffering:
- spinal cord injuries
- type 1 diabetes
- Alzheimer's disease
- heart disease
Schumacher remains the most successful driver in Formula One history, with a record 91 grand prix victories.
He won his first two titles with Benetton in 1994 and 1995 before five in a row with Ferrari between 2000-2004.
In January his family released a statement saying he was in "the very best of hands".
Schumacher's family fiercely protects his privacy. Thick forest around his castle-like home and high surrounding walls provide sanctuary from fan and media intrusion.
His son, Mick, who is now 20, won last year’s European Formula championship with eight victories and has since moved up to Formula Two.
Last month the German claimed his first Formula Two win in Hungary.
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