Gulf War Veterans Display Abnormal Brain Response to Specific Chemicals

From the FMS Global and UK News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton

Courtesy of Newswise Science Centre -UT Southwestern Medical Center
Dallas March 20 2009

Newswise — A new study by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers is the first to pinpoint damage inside the brains of veterans suffering from Gulf War syndrome – a finding that links the illness to chemical exposures and may lead to diagnostic tests and treatments.

Dr. Robert Haley, chief of epidemiology at UT Southwestern and lead author of the study, said the research uncovers and locates areas of the brain that function abnormally. Recent studies had shown evidence of chemical abnormalities and shrinkage of white matter in the brains of veterans exposed to certain toxic chemicals, such as sarin gas during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The research, published in the March issue of the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, enables investigators to visualize exact brain structures affected by these chemical exposures, Dr. Haley said.

“Before this study, we did not know exactly what parts of the brain were damaged and causing the symptoms in these veterans,” he said. “We designed an experiment to test areas of the brain that would have been damaged if the illness was caused by sarin or pesticides, and the results were positive.”

In designing the study, Dr. Haley and his colleagues reasoned that if low-level sarin or pesticides had damaged Gulf War veterans’ brains, a likely target of the damage would be cholinergic receptors on cells in certain brain structures. If that was so, administering safe levels of medicines that stimulate cholinergic receptors would elicit an abnormal response in ill veterans.

In the study, 21 chronically ill Gulf War veterans and 17 well veterans were given small doses of physostigmine, a substance which briefly stimulates cholinergic receptors. Researchers then measured the study participants’ brain cell response with brain scans.

“What we found was that some of the brain areas we previously suspected responded abnormally to the cholinergic challenge,” Dr. Haley said. “Those areas were in the basal ganglia, hippocampus, thalamus and amygdala, and the thalamus. Changes in functioning of these brain structures can certainly cause problems with concentration and memory, body pain, fatigue, abnormal emotional responses and personality changes that we commonly see in ill Gulf War veterans.”

A previous study funded by the U.S. Army found that repetitive exposure to low-level sarin nerve gas caused changes in cholinergic receptors in lab rats.

“An added bonus is a statistical formula combining the brain responses in 17 brain areas that separated the ill from the well veterans, and three different Gulf War syndrome variants from each other with a high degree of accuracy,” Dr. Haley said. “If this finding can be repeated in a larger group, we might have an objective test for Gulf War syndrome and its variants.”

An objective diagnostic test, he said, sets the stage for ongoing genetic studies to see why some people are affected by chemical exposures, and why others are not. New studies would also allow the selection of homogenous groups of ill veterans in which to run efficient clinical trials for treatments.

Dr. Haley first described Gulf War syndrome in a series of papers published in January 1997 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In previous studies, research from Dr. Haley showed that veterans suffering from Gulf War syndrome had lower levels of a protective blood enzyme called paraoxonase, which usually fights off the toxins found in sarin. Veterans who served in the same geographical area and did not get sick had higher levels of this enzyme.

Dr. Haley and his colleagues have closely followed the same group of tests subjects since 1995. In 2006, UT Southwestern and the Department of Veterans Affairs established a dedicated, collaborative Gulf War illness research enterprise in Dallas, managed by UT Southwestern.

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a longtime supporter of Gulf War research, facilitated that agreement and secured a $75 million appropriation over five years for Gulf War illness research.

This study was funded, in part, by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.

Other UT Southwestern researchers involved in the current study included Drs. Jeffrey Spence and Patrick Carmack, assistant professors of clinical sciences; Drs. Michael Devous and Frederick Bonte, professors of radiology; and Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, professor of psychiatry. Researchers from Southern Methodist University also participated.

Dr. Robert Haley http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/findfac/professional/0,2356,12888,00.html
(Article -http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/utsw/cda/dept353744/files/522139.html)

Advertisements

About jeanne hambleton

Journalist-wordsmith, former reporter, columnist, film critic, editor, Town Clerk and then fibromite and eventer with 5 conferences done and dusted. Interested in all health and well being issues, passionate about research to find a cure and cause for fibromyalgia. Member LinkedIn. Worked for 4 years with FMA UK as Regional Coordinator for SW and SE,and Chair for FMS SAS the Sussex and Surrey FM umbrella charity and Chair Folly Pogs Fibromyalgia Research UK - finding funding for our "cause for a cure" and President and co ordinator of National FM Conferences. Just finished last national annual Fibromyalgia Conference Weekend. This was another success with speakers from the States . Next year's conference in Chichester Park Hotel, West Sussex, will be April 24/27 2015 and bookings are coming in from those who raved about the event every year. I am very busy but happy to produce articles for publication. News Editor of FMS Global News on line but a bit behind due to conference. A workaholic beyond redemption! The future - who knows? Open to offers with payment. Versatile and looking for a regular paid column - you call the tune and I will play the pipes.
This entry was posted in 13606, 16816416, 16816701, 18473400, 18473734, 18475482, 18477189, 18477433, 18542595, 18637166, 18638001, Article, Autoimmune Diseases, Britain feeds, Brussels feeds, CBS News, Central Nervous System, Disability, Diseases, Europe feeds, Fatigue, feed://feedproxy.google.com/bydls, Feeds, feeds://feedburnercomwordpressmytb-2, Fibrohugs, Fibrohugs News, Fibromyalgia, Fibromyalgia Blogs, Fibromyalgia News, Fibromyalgia News UK, Fibromyalgia Press Releases, FM, FMS, FMS Global News, Global News, Gulf War Syndrome, Gulf War Veterans, Health, http://feedburner.google.com/fb, http://feedburner.google.com/fbX, http://jeannehambleton77.wordpress.com, http://www.myspace.com/jeannehambleton, Jeanne Hambleton, Journalist UK, London, London UK, London UK Feed, Medical, Michigan feeds, News, News UK, News USA, Pain, Pain Management, Research, RSS, RSS Feeds, Tenderpoints, Twitter, UK feeds, Uncategorized, US, USA, Washington D.C. City Feed, World, World feeds, World News, World Wide, Worldwide and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s