Morgellons Research Update April 2006
April 5, 2006
Recently, I have been asked to evaluate some research that may have bearing on Morgellons Disease and that is presented in an online streaming video. Before I give my comments, I would like to state that I am NOT calling into question either the integrity or honesty of the person(s) who made the video.
I have viewed the video and am not able to come to any conclusions about the video for the following reasons:
1). When I am asked to review manuscripts for publication or grant proposals, there is always a clear statement of hypothesis to base the data on. Biomedical research is generally hypothesis-driven and the research is aimed at testing the hypothesis. I could not ascertain what hypothesis is being tested in the video.
2). The microscopy images are of a high quality. However, when such data is presented at a meeting, or in a publication, a scale-bar would always be included. This may sound trivial, but I assure you that it is absolutely critical to know whether the objects are viewed with minimal magnification or at 1,000X oil immersion. There are times when my guess is that some objects are 60-100X magnification and other images seem highly magnified at probably 400-1,000X. Seeing microscopic images without knowing the size is like looking at a road-map of a new land without a mileage scale marker. One just doesn’t know if it is 400 meters from point A to point B or 100 miles.
3). Whether a PowerPoint presentation or a paper, each figure displayed will have a thorough description of what is being shown. Species, tissue, cell culture, temperature, culture media, etc. are all details that would be written out so that the image has some meaning. This is true whether it is a chart or photo or a micrograph. In the absence of such information, one is left to try to guess what is being shown. This lack of information or interpretability is true from the start to finish of this video, other than occasionally showing a man in a laboratory. There are objects in some liquid that are shown. Is the liquid, water, saline solution, tissue culture media or bacterial media? Are the objects that may be cells from a cell culture or taken from a living organism? It can NEVER be left to the reader or viewer of a scientific presentation to have to GUESS or SPECULATE about what is being viewed. It must be clearly spelled out. This is true in all branches of biomedical research, including: molecular biology, microbiology, proteomics, genomics, pharmacology, etc.
4). There are words and phrases that show up in the video that have no meaning and hence, come across as though they have meaning, but as presented they simply do not. They should have been explained and there is no attempt to do so. For instance: a. “A model organism based on quorum sensing”. This phrase is missing the end of the sentence. “…quorum sensing”…. ‘something’. What is the ‘something’? Some bacteria utilize quorum sensing. Quorum-sensing is one way that bacteria control the explosive growth phase (log phase) with what is called ‘stationary phase’. It is how they keep from overpopulating an environment. What is the so-called model organism quorum sensing? Sugars, protein, heat, acid, nitrogen or a specific molecule that the organism releases to be sensed by others of its own kind? Bacteria might release molecules into their environment to guide how the population, as a group, will behave. The gut bacteria, E. coli use quorum sensing. The phrase “… based on quorum sensing…” has no intrinsic meaning and needs to be explained. b. “Involved technology represents proteomic and synthetic genomic research.” Again, these words are meaningless without explanation. Proteomic and genomic research goes on in hundreds of labs around the world. Both of those disciplines have meaning only when the specific ‘genome’ or ‘proteome’ is defined. What species or multiple species are involved in this research. What does synthetic genomic research mean? The word ‘genomic’ implies a genome. A genome is the entire DNA pool of genes of a specific organism. There is no such thing as a synthetic genome. There may be SPECIFIC individual genes that are engineered for use from one species to another species, but those genes are still part of the human or mouse or Lepidoptera or whatever species is being discussed. c. “Next footage will demonstrate how single cell, quorum sensing microorganisms grow and replicate a multicellular entity in the human body”. Does this imply that the footage was taken in a human body? It did not appear that this was the case. The problems described earlier arise again. Is this tissue, in a human, in another animal, or if they are tissue culture cells, are they human, rat, mouse, or what? The phrase “…single cell, quorum sensing microorganisms grow and replicate a multicellular entity…” just has no meaning. We need to know what is going on here in detail, or it is not informative. d. “multinucleated giant cell” I watched this section several times & could not see any multi-nucleated giant cell. Perhaps still image, micrographs would indicate this cell, but I could not see it in the video. There are multi-nucleated cells in various tissues from many species. Such cells with multiple nuclei and intracellular organelles are usually quite easy to observe, but I could not make out any organelles or nuclei in the video. e. “quorum sensing robotic like behavior”. This is a statement that may well cross scientific disciplines and may be out of the realm of my expertise. On the other hand, robotic devices cannot exhibit quorum sensing, so I was not surprised when I inquired from a robotics mechanical engineer about the phrase & she had never heard of quorum sensing. Again, quorum sensing is the ability to communicate amongst a population by sensing certain molecules. In some bacteria it is possible to knock-out the ability to utilize the natural quorum sensing abilities of a species and often this will result in runaway cell overgrowth leading to death of most of the population.
5). While never coming out and discussing the specifics, it seems that the implication is that an ‘organism’ has been generated by someone with genes of different species. If so, then there is no need to even debate the matter with nice production videos, still micrographs or speculation. DNA sequencing is a common-place procedure in 2006. There are thousands of labs and numerous commercial facilities that will sequence DNA at a fairly inexpensive cost (under $20.00 per reaction). If there is an engineered organism that the maker of this video has in his possession, then it would be trivial to sequence across the DNA splice sites. If sections of DNA from 2 species have been joined together, then the sequence should reveal the first organism to one point and then the other organism beyond that splice site. DNA technology lends itself to accidental splicing of mismatched pieces of DNA fairly frequently. Labs that do DNA and RNA research are frequently checking to make sure that such accidents are detected, or much valuable research time can be wasted. Intentional and accidental DNA splicing occurs in the modern molecular biology world & simple DNA sequencing reveals when such errors occur. Since fairly poor labs and even college teaching labs can sequence large stretches of DNA, there should be no reason that the maker of the video cannot do so. Such work is inexpensive and easy. It is also CONVINCING and NOT subject to interpretation. Whenever an image or video has to be interpreted, there is the possibility of misinterpretation. DNA sequencing either works or it does not work. A fragment of sequence can be submitted to the global database search engines and will be either human, or mouse or rat or cockroach or whatever species it came from. There is no subjective interpretation necessary. There was a time, well over a decade-and-a-half ago, when DNA sequencing was difficult, time-consuming and expensive. Now it is cheap and accurate. There is no reason not to use the ‘gold-standard’ of DNA sequencing to identify this supposed, engineered organism. Until the accepted molecular tools are utilized to give an objective result, the maker of the video will be left with subjective conclusions that can be interpreted in different ways. Sequencing DNA on both strands, from both directions gives a result that cannot be argued. Looking at microscopic images and video can never give such incontrovertible proof of something. Properly documented and well-described mages and video can be a PART of a case, but will never be considered proof. From the 1970s and back into earlier decades, molecular tools did not exist. Now that they do, it is incumbent upon any researcher to make use of the standard, commonplace tools for a specific type of research. Availability of the organism’s DNA or RNA should not be a problem. When properly handled, the DNA and/or RNA from just one single cell should be enough to amplify and then sequence. The video footage under discussion is fairly extensive and claims to show a novel organism, therefore, getting one single cell for DNA sequencing does not seem like it should be too difficult.
Whenever I or any other scientists publish our work, it is up to us to convincingly demonstrate that we have accomplished what we say we have. I could never publish something and leave it up to the reader to interpret what I am trying to say. Such research would never get through scientific review and could never be published. No, all relevant facts must be clearly described and defined. Most of my publications have been in the fields of molecular biology, physiology and pharmacology. Any competent scientist should be able to follow the protocol steps described in my papers and replicate my experiments. If they could not, it would call into question the validity of the paper. Results must be replicable and all steps should be clearly described for other to repeat the experiments. Hopefully, if the maker of the video feels that he has information regarding the cause of Morgellons Disease, then he will perform the necessary, proper and fairly easy experiments so that this information can be shared with other researchers. Just as with many things in life, talk is cheap. When it comes to scientific hypotheses, talk is more than cheap, it is meaningless. One must not only ‘talk the talk, but must also walk the walk’.
These matters are of vital importance as it will likely be necessary to identify the cause of Morgellons Disease before effective treatments can be developed.
Best wishes for success to everyone researching the cause and treatment of Morgellons Disease.
Randy S. Wymore, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Pharmacology & Physiology
Oklahoma State University
Center for Health Sciences and
College of Osteopathic Medicine
1111 W. 17th St.
Tulsa, OK 74107