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Custer considered for stem cell study

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WSU student fractured spine at Oxford party

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Ryan Custer, a Wright State University student who was severely injured at an Oxford party, is being considered for a stem cell study at Rush University Hospital in Chicago. The 19-year-old, a first-year forward for the Raiders' varsity basketball team, will be evaluated for five days before doctors determine if he qualifies for the study.

Custer suffered a severe spinal injury after jumping into a makeshift pool at a party on S. Main Street on Saturday, April 8. Custer collided with another person's knee when he slid into the pool, causing the injury. Custer was immediately transported to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center where he underwent surgery on his spine that night.

Feeling in Custer's legs has not returned, and he has only recently regained some movement in his fingers.

Custer was transported from the UC Medical Center to Rush Hospital on Sunday, April 22. According to a post from the Ryan Custer Recovery Care Page, a Facebook page updated almost daily by Custer's family, he spent the first day in Chicago getting acclimated in his new room in Rush's ICU and meeting the doctor who will lead the study, Dr. Richard Fessler.

Dr. Fessler, a renowned spinal surgeon, has focused his research on developing and refining new ways to perform minimally invasive spinal surgeries. In 2010, Fessler performed surgery on former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, which Custer was happy to learn, the post said.

The five-day period of testing began Monday, and, if selected for the study, treatment for Custer will begin on Friday. The study, called the SCiStar study, will evaluate how the injection of AST-OPC1, particular neural cells produced from human embryonic stem cells, at a single time 14 to 30 days after an injury can benefit the patient's recovery.

According to the SCiStar webpage, the study's researchers are seeking adults between the ages of 18 and 69 who recently experienced a spinal cord injury in the neck which resulted in a loss of feeling below the site of the injury in addition to some paralysis in the arms and legs.

HBO has contacted Dr. Fessler about following a patient through this research process.

"Ryan thinks it would be cool to do it, so we said yes," an April 22 Facebook post reads. "Another step in the plan God has mapped out for Ryan."

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A fundraising page created for Custer, "The Ryan Custer 33 Recovery Fund," is close to raising its entire $100,000 goal. At the time of publication, the fund was just about $4,000 shy of the 100k mark.

Over 6,500 people have liked the page and are following along with Custer's recovery through the family's Facebook updates.