Grad Raises Money For Research

$20,000 Will Go Toward Stem-cell Research

Karen Rivedal, Wisconsin State Journal

UW-Madison’s Waisman Center will get about $20,000 to help pay for stem-cell research from a fund-raiser organized by a UW-Madison graduate who was paralyzed in a fall.

David Busta, a 1997 graduate, raised the money with his friends and family in the second annual event, a combination basketball tournament and silent auction held Nov. 27 in Chetek, Busta’s hometown, about 225 miles northwest of Madison. The day was tiring but fun, said Busta’s high school friend Derek Johnson.

“We didn’t quite hit our goal of $25,000,” said Johnson. “But I think 20 grand is a pretty good number for the second year of a fund-raiser in a town of only 3,000, and on a pretty snowy day in Chetek.”

Money from the event will help pay for the work of researcher Su-Chun Zhang, who has had success coaxing human embryonic stem cells into becoming early stage brain cells. Ultimately, scientists hope the cells can be transplanted into people to repair the damage caused by neurological diseases and spinal cord injuries, like the one that paralyzed Busta after a 30-foot fall outside a concert in Milwaukee in 2002.

Center director Marsha Mailick Seltzer said Busta’s donation would be put to good use. The $40 million center works to find better treatments and cures for people with developmental disabilities and spinal cord injuries.

“We are deeply moved and very grateful,” Seltzer said. “People like David give life to our work.”

Johnson said next year’s fund-raiser will be Nov. 26, and the group hopes to use a Web site for online donations.