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Early end seen for ARMS-funded research program
by Kay Moore
Houston Chronicle; Houston, Tex.; Mar 25, 1986

A Texas A&M University researcher has confirmed that his laboratory received $65,000 from a controversial Houston multiple sclerosis foundation, but said the work will have to end soon because ``we were told there was no other money.''

Dr. William Fife, professor of biology at Texas A&M and director of the hyperbaric oxygen laboratory there, said he regrets the recent turn of events because the research ``hopefully would have resulted in some answers.''

Fife said his laboratory initially told Action into Research for Multiple Sclerosis (ARMS) of America Ltd. that it needed $315,000 over three years to fund the research adequately.

``Mae Nacol (former ARMS director) said it was far too much, that we needed to cut it back down,'' Fife said Monday. ``Finally, the sum of $65,000 for one year was accepted. When we called back to inquire about the other two years, we were told that there was no other money.''

The state attorney general's office is investigating claims that most of the original $1 million used to establish ARMS of America was misappropriated. Rock musician Ronnie Lane and his physician, Dr. Phillip James, requested the investigation in December.

A statement furnished to the attorney general's office shows the money has gone largely for attorney's fees to Nacol, public relations and advertising and other ``self-dealing'' matters.

Nacol has denied any wrongdoing. She maintains that research by ARMS went beyond traditional studies in a university setting and was to be based in part on demographic studies conducted when MS sufferers called the ARMS nationwide toll-free number.

Fife said his laboratory applied for the money at ARMS' invitation. He believes the laboratory received the money because Dr. Donald Welch, who is in the postdoctoral program there, had done MS research.

The A&M laboratory is probing a theory about MS other than the usual ones: that MS is caused by a virus or by problems in the body's immune systems. MS is a progressively degenerative condition that attacks the central nervous system with a variety of symptoms ranging from blindness to bowel and bladder incontinence to paralysis.

A&M is studying the fat embolism theory. Fife said this means that ``the fat gets into a vein, goes into the lungs and then into the brain. The precise mechanism by which the damage is done is not worked out yet, and that's one of the things we were working on.'' This hypothesis was promoted by James in his MS research in Europe, he said.

Fife said he contacted the current ARMS president, Ira Morel, late last week and was told that no other money was available. Morel could not be reached for comment Monday.

``All the people who are working on this are now going to have to take off and find other jobs,'' said Fife. Welch said he and a graduate student have been working on the research.

``We're going to try to see if we can find additional funding, but you have to realize that getting money for anything today is an uphill battle,'' Fife said.

Nacol said in a September interview that the $1 million start-up money, raised by Lane and other British rock stars during an all-star benefit tour of the United States in 1983, was going to fund research at A&M, the University of Texas Medical School and the Oregon Health Science University.

Records furnished to the attorney general, however, show only the $65,920 given to A&M, paid in two checks in May 1985.

Records show that Lane, who also has MS and frequently uses a wheelchair, also received money from ARMS for his rent and for a caretaker's salary.

Lane and Nacol no longer are on the ARMS board. Randolph Ewing, attorney for ARMS, said the non-profit office was conducting business Monday.

Ewing said a staff of three people was answering the ARMS nationwide hot line and ``getting calls from all over.''

``I think there's still a future for ARMS,'' he said.




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