Thursday, September 10, 2009

Novel CDMRP-Funded Clinical Trial: Acupuncture

Editor's note:  A new treatment trial for Gulf War Illness, funded by the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP), focuses on the use of a potentially novel treatment, Acupuncture -- an ancient Eastern form of medicine. The study is being conducted by the New England School of Acupuncture (NESA).


Our study investigates the benefits of acupuncture for reducing symptoms of GWI, compared to usual care. We plan to recruit 120 veterans with GWI, who will receive individualized acupuncture twice per week for 2 months, followed by once per week for 4 months. Because the syndrome is characterized by a highly individualized presentation of symptoms, this type of acupuncture may be particularly well suited to its treatment. Changes in symptom severity will be tracked by reliable, validated scales and questionnaires. We also plan to gather data from blood samples from participants to study biological markers of inflammation, immune function, and effects of stress. We expect this line of research will be helpful in understanding the pathology of the disease and also the effects of acupuncture. Since GWI is a new disease, our study team will characterize it in terms of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), based on clinical observation, the biological effects of the disease, and according to source materials of the Oriental Medicine (OM) tradition. Often, as scholars of OM, we focus on its traditional aspects, its 2000-year old history. But OM is also a living tradition, a model of health and healthcare that can be used to treat modern diseases, such as neurological damage from poisoning.

NESA’s study team is led by Principal Investigator, Dr. Lisa Conboy, Co-Director of Research. Meredith St. John, an Associate Professor at NESA, is a Co-Investigator. “One of the greatest benefits of this study for me is the opportunity to work with some of the top researchers on acupuncture. “ Meredith indicated. “Lisa is a social epidemiologist whose work has focused on researching OM naturalistically, the way it’s actually practiced by clinicians, and its impact on patients’ quality of life.” Dr. Rosa Schnyer, of Harvard Medical School’s Osher Institute, is a consultant on our study, and has published extensively on issues of acupuncture research. ”I feel so fortunate to be able to provide acupuncture to these veterans, whose service in this war led to these injuries. It’s just not right that so little has been done to help them. We already know that acupuncture often is helpful for many of the symptoms these vets have, and we expect to help many of them feel a lot better.”

Source: Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses. Gulf War Illness and the Health of Gulf War Veterans: Scientific Findings and Recommendations. Washington, D.C: U.S. Government Printing Office, November 2008. (

Meredith St. John’s acupuncture practice is in South Natick, MA. (

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