Dr. Kumika Toma of the Marshall University College of Health Professions worked with researchers from across the country to determine the possible cause of rosacea.

Dr. Kumika Toma of the Marshall University College of Health Professions has made significant contributions in determining the causes of rosacea, according to a research study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology last summer.

“Rosacea is a non-fatal chronic inflammatory skin disease affecting more than 14 million Americans’ quality of life. A common characteristic includes redness in the middle of face due to increased blood flow, but the exact mechanism is not known and many treatments rely on the results of ‘trial-and-error,’ ” Toma said.

Toma, an associate professor of exercise science in the college’s School of Kinesiology, said she was responsible for recording nerve activities through needle electrodes inserted in the area of the eyebrow. She said her microneurography technique allowed the research team to determine that the sympathetic nervous system may be involved in the development and triggering of rosacea symptoms.

This is the second published study in the world and the first in North America in which a researcher has used inserted electrodes into the area of the eyebrow to record a specific nerve signal, according to Toma.

“This is the first published study in the world with this technique to the patient population. Also, the microneurography technique used is very new to clinical research,” Toma said. “This type of study is a bridge between science research and clinical practice.”

The article published in the Journal of Neurophysiology details findings from recorded nerve activities through needles electrodes inserted in the eyebrow. This is the first study of its kind in North America.

Dr. Thad Wilson, professor of physiology at Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Indianapolis, introduced Toma to research of sympathetic nerve activity during her second and third years of her postdoctoral fellowship at the Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institution. Wilson said he served as principal investigator on the grant from the National Rosacea Society, but it was Toma who was responsible for the novel nerve recordings.

“She was the person who placed the recording electrodes into the nerve between the brain and the facial skin to tap into ‘nerve phone line’ to record its messages – pretty impressive on her part,” Wilson said. “I introduced her to the microneurography technique, but she was able to further develop it and then for the first time apply to the clinical population.”

Wilson said the results of this study could be used for more focused treatment plans for rosacea and other flushing-related disorders.

“In addition to the microneurography component of the study Toma performed, the research team also tested local reflexes within the skin that cause vasodialation, which is an increase in skin blood flow,” Wilson said. “The technique advances in this study could be importantly applied to study other flushing-related disorders such as menopause.”

The study, “Augmented supraorbital skin sympathetic nerve activity responses to symptom trigger events in rosacea patients” was published in July 2015 by the Journal of Neurophysiology.

To learn more about Toma’s rosacea research, e-mail tomak@marshall.edu. For more information on Marshall’s School of Kinesiology and its Department of Exercise Science, visit www.marshall.edu/cohp online.