St. Petersburg Surgeon Dr. Christian Drehsen Lobbies FDA to Speed Approval of Non-Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy

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Drehsen claims excellent results in past procedures using stem cell techniques.

It should be no surprise that using a patient’s own tissue presents fewer risks than many alternatives. It’s sad that these options have continued to be blocked by bureaucracy.

One of the most respected plastic surgeons in America is encouraging the FDA to move forward on approval of stem-cell based therapies — inspired in part by Matthew McConaughey's recent Oscar win for the film Dallas Buyers Club. In the film, McConaughey portrayed Ron Woodroof, who fought the Food and Drug Administration over his use and distribution of unapproved but effective HIV/AIDS medications. In a letter to FDA comissioner Margaret A. Hamburg dated April 14th, Dr. Christian Drehsen of St. Petersburg claims that the story echoes current FDA treatment of stem cell therapies, of which almost none are approved for use in the United States.

Drehsen cites his extensive past experience working with stem cells, and calls on the FDA to provide more rapid approval for the procedures, which he says are safe and effective.

In the period 2009-2010, before the current regulatory embargo, Drehsen performed over 20 reconstructive and cosmetic stem-cell procedures using technology from the pioneering stem cell therapy research firm Cytori. In his letter, Drehsen writes that the results of his procedures were excellent, and he’s frustrated with the limitations now in place.

“Japan has approved these procedures. Much of Europe has approved them. They’re changing people’s lives every day – but not in the United States,” the letter reads in part.

Stem cell therapies have myriad potential uses. Drehsen says that in his own practice at the Clinique of Plastic Surgery, their promise includes greatly improved outcomes for burn victims, patients with extensive sun exposure damage, and post-operative breast reconstruction procedures. Those therapies have been pioneered with good results in Europe and Australia, respectively.

Other treatments currently proven or under trial include treatments for traumatic hamstring injury ( and chronic heart failure (

Though much American resistance to stem cell research has been rooted in ethical concerns about the use of embryonic stem cells, the Cytori procedure uses Adipose-Derived Regenerative Cells, or ADRCs – stem cells derived from the patient’s own body fat and altered for re-injection using a proprietary process. Dr. Drehsen was one of a handful of doctors in the United States to use this technology for plastic surgery before the FDA blocked its usage. This makes him one of the most experienced surgeons in the U.S. in non-embryonic stem-cell enhanced facelift procedures. Drehsen’s website ( features many examples of his past successful stem-cell procedure outcomes.

“The FDA serves the vital function of ensuring patient safety. But these procedures have been proven safe," Drehsen concludes. "It should be no surprise that using a patient’s own tissue presents fewer risks than many alternatives. It’s sad that these options have continued to be blocked by bureaucracy.”

Drehsen says that much of the equipment used in his stem cell procedures now sits in storage, unused.

About Dr. Christian Drehsen:

Dr. Christian Drehsen has been voted one of America’s Top Physicians by the Consumer Research Counsel of America, earned recognition in the Guide to America’s Top Plastic Surgeons for 2012, and is a recipient of the Florida Medical Association’s “Distinguished Physician” Award. He has been recognized numerous times as one of America’s top plastic surgeons by Plastic Surgery Practices Magazine. He is also highly engaged in his local community, and was recognized as one of Tampa Bay’s “13 Magnetic Men” by PARC, a nonprofit organization aiding children and adults with developmental disabilities.

Dr. Drehsen was born in Belgium, and attended medical school at the Free University of Brussels. He came to the U.S. and completed his internship in general surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in Miami. He then completed his residency in general surgery at the University of Florida in Jacksonville. He then went on to complete a comprehensive training and residency in plastic surgery at the University of Louisville (Kentucky) under the direction of Dr. Leonard Weiner. Dr. Drehsen also trained in hand surgery under the renowned hand surgeon Dr. Harold Kleinert and in microsurgery under pioneering microsurgeon Dr. Robert Ackland. Dr. Drehsen added strong pediatric plastic surgery skills during his residency at Morton Children’s Hospital in Louisville.

Dr. Drehsen became Board Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery in 1981.

Contact: (727) 592-0991.

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