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Dr. Randy Wymore looks for scientific evidence for the cause of Morgellons disease. He volunteers as director of research for the Morgellons Foundation.
In the world of bizarre symptoms that mark Morgellons disease, patients speculate about how they got it.
An athletic young swimmer who trained in murky bay waters wonders if that is the cause of symptoms. A patient living near a marsh speculates that contaminated dust from dredging is to blame. Others suspect a link to Lyme disease. Whatever the cause, they are sick and do not know why.
Morgellons disease, a little-known and often discounted illness, lacks the solid scientific data needed to point to a definitive cause.
That soon may change as Randy S. Wymore, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology and physiology, looks for answers. He is taking on the research challenge as volunteer director of research for the Morgellons Research Foundation.
According to the foundation, the disease began to appear in 2002. Patients complain of itching and feeling like bugs are crawling on their skin, stinging and biting. Many suffer from fatigue, or have trouble concentrating. Even more horrifying, their skin often develops blistering lesions that shed black seed-like particles, and sprout colored, fibrous filaments.
Neurological symptoms include numbness, tingling, itching, burning, or peripheral neuropathy. Sufferers sometimes are diagnosed with delusions of parasitosis (a belief that they have parasites) by skeptical doctors who have no solid scientific data that Morgellons Disease is real. Treatment may consist of saying, “Just don’t scratch it.”
“Health care providers are shooting in the dark as to how to treat it. Antibiotics seem to help some, but if they are stopped the symptoms come back,” Wymore says. In coordinating research efforts, he sees a research challenge and a chance to help. “I am doing this partly from scientific curiosity, but also with real empathy toward sufferers.”
The foundation has registered approximately 2,500 families worldwide. Clusters of sufferers are located in Texas, California and Florida. Wymore says Oklahoma has at least a dozen possible cases.
Questions surround Morgellons. Is it a real disease, and if so, what causes it? Is it one disease, or a complex syndrome?
“We are keeping every possible cause open for examination. It could be viral, parasitic, fungal, bacterial, or environmental contamination. We just do not know. There is not enough evidence,” Wymore says. He will put together a scientific advisory board, and hopes to interest other researchers in unraveling the medical mystery.
To find the cause, he will look first for any new or unusual bacteria. Shed materials from patients will be analyzed for unusual microbial species by amplifying any non-human DNA. Wymore says he will use PCR to amplify DNA, analyze the sequence and get an idea what kind of microorganism, if any, exist.
If no organism emerges, he will look for a viral cause. Wymore says this initial investigation will attempt to establish a rationale for more involved studies. After approval by the Human Subjects Institutional Review Board, samples will come directly from patients in a clinical setting.
For more information: www.morgellons.org
If you’re looking at Elizabeth Karns Nokes, you’re looking at OSU pride.
She can’t own enough orange, says OSU’s homecoming is the best in the country, and she never even thought about going to college anyplace else. Not only that, she wants to be the mayor of Stillwater someday.
Her OSU pride shows in her job as administrative assistant in the Office of External Affairs. Nokes puts her degree in animal science and agricultural communications to work assisting with events, communications and activities.
One of her most visible roles has been as liaison for Eugene Field elementary school, the Center’s Partner in Education. “It has been fun getting to know the teachers and the children,” she says, adding that she gets hugs each time she visits the school.
Her coordination aids successful activities including a mentoring program that drew a record number of volunteers last year, a teaching project that brought the children to the medical school, help with the school’s food pantry, and pet safety training.
As an OSU undergrad, Nokes was active in her sorority, Orange Peel, student government, was a wrestling team Mat Maid, and was on the Dean’s honor roll. A poster of her beloved wrestling team holds prominent place in her office.
“At OSU, you have a sense of belonging,” says Nokes, who graduated in 2003. “Walking across campus on game day and seeing a huge sea of orange is like home to me.” OSU’s medical school is also like home. Her husband, Tim, is a third-year OSU medical student and her father-in-law, Phil Nokes, D.O., graduated in 1978.
She commends OSU for creating a family atmosphere where students are encouraged to succeed both in education and in life. She is still an OSU student herself, and is completing a master’s degree in agriculture education.
Nokes recently discovered that the Stillwater mayor can declare special days. She already has one chosen. “When I am mayor,” she says, “I will declare an OSU Wrestling day.”
Do you, or does someone you know, show OSU pride at work?
Do you have an OSU Pride Works story to share?
Contact Marla Schaefer, Rounds editor.
MS II Gina Madole (center left) and running partner Elizabeth Baines join Union cheerleaders at the finish line of the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation 5K Race for the Cure.
“HIV Neurotoxicity: Involvement of the Dopaminergic System,” OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Physiological Sciences, Stillwater, OK, August 25 (Dr. David Wallace).
“[Ala12] MCD peptide: a lead peptide to inhibitors of immunoglobulin E binding to mast cell receptors,” Journal of Peptide Research, 66:132-137 (Dr. Joseph Price).
“Stargazin modulates native AMPA receptor functional properties by two distinct mechanisms,” Journal of Neuroscience, 25:7438-7448 (Drs. Eva Garringer, Doris Patneau and Dorothy Turetsky).
Reviewed papers for Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics;Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior; and Contemporary Topics in Animal Lab Sciences. Reviewed two grants for the government of Norway Research Council (Dr. Craig Stevens).
OSU-CHS volunteers can make a difference at Eugene Field elementary school, our Partner in Education.
Volunteers are needed for a variety of mentoring activities, according to Elizabeth Nokes, coordinator of the volunteer program for our campus. Some activities include reading to children, helping teachers in classroom settings, mentoring a student as a friend, having lunch with a child who needs a little extra attention, or helping monitor children at recess.
New or returning volunteers should contact Nokes at 561-8424 or room A-130. She said that volunteers are allowed two hours a month for community service at the school. Eugene Field is slated to move into its brand new building later this fall, Nokes says.
Sandy Cooper, director of human resources, hands out OSU polo shirts to CHS employees at a recent Town Hall meeting. The shirts are gifts to staffers as part of the OSU Pride Works campaign.
Research scholars met Sept. 16 in CAME for Research Day. Second year medical students Matt Hoffman and Amanda Matzke, recipients of 2005 research fellowships from Auxiliary to the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association (AOOA), presented their projects. Top honors for student presentations went to graduate student Yana Levchenko and medical student Tyson Sjulin. Supporters include AOOA, H.A. and Mary K Chapman Charitable Trust, Grace and Franklin Bernsen Foundation, Merkel Family Foundation, and William K Warren Foundation. Dr. David Wallace coordinated the event.
Dr. Warren Finn (center) and student D. Andrew Nelson (right) discuss a poster with Dr. Randall Davis.
Dr. Doris Patneau and Dr. Bruce Benjamin look over a poster presentation.
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