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