Monday, November 2, 2009

VA's Cancelled Gulf War Illness Research Was Even More Promising that Previously Known, Early Studies Show


Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes

(Washington, DC - November 2, 2009) - Stunning new findings related to 1991 Gulf War Illness chemical exposures and potential treatments were revealed in a presentation today by Dr. Robert Haley, director of the $75 million Gulf War Illness research funding program at the University of Texas-Southwestern in Dallas, Tex. that was discontinued by the federal VA due to a contract dispute. 

Dr. Haley's studies, comprising more than 200 researchers at six universities, had developed an animal model of Gulf War chemical exposures, determined their effects on brain functions, and were making initial strides in unlocking treatments for the brain damage caused by the Gulf War chemical exposures. His research also revealed serious health consequences for one Gulf War chemical previously thought to be safe.


Three Gulf War chemicals were selected for study study in order to determine their effects on brain function, including:

  • Chlorpyrifos (CP), a pesticide highly used in the Gulf War including in flea collars worn by many Gulf War troops to ward away biting sand fleas. 
  • Pyridostigmine Bromide (PB), a pill taken by about 250,000 Gulf War troops to help sustain life after exposure to soman nerve agent, a key chemical warfare agent in the Iraqi chemical warfare arsenal at the time. PB has been implicated in a number of scientific studies as causally linked to the chronic multi-symptom illness, commonly known as Gulf War Illness, which affects between one-fourth and one-third of the 697,000 veterans of the 1991 Gulf War. 
  • DFP, a good surrogate for Sarin, a potent chemical warfare nerve agent released in March 1991 at Khamisiyah, Iraq by U.S. demolitions teams, shortly after the war's conclusion. The U.S. Department of Defense contacted about 100,000 in the mid-1990s to notify them that they had been exposed to low-levels of sarin and cyclosarin nerve agents and possibly mustard gas when a"pl ume" lasting for three days following the detonations drifted over and exposed U.S. Gulf War troops. While the two letters sent to troops by DoD downplayed the risks of the exposures, numerous scientific studies have shown that rates of chronic multi-symptom illness, brain cancer, and other serious health effects are much higher among the Khamisiyah group than in other deployed Gulf War veterans.

Mouse Model

The first phase of the studies was to develop a mouse model of the effects of exposure to Gulf War chemicals on the brains of the laboratory mice. The mouse model study was conducted by providing laboratory mice with repeated low-dose exposures to Gulf War chemicals such that it was followed by the appearance of brain dysfunction lasting at least three months. The goal was to work out what was the exposure "recipe" that cuases delaysd, chronic changes in the laboratory mice. Once determined, the model would then be validated, and treatments would be developed.

According to Dr. Haley's presentation, that work has been successful in several areas.

One of the intermediate goals was to establish the brain penetration of a range of doses of the Gulf War chemicals, and that was accomplished. It was already known that CP and Sarin (DFP) readily crossed into the brain and caused damage. However, one of the study's surprising findings was that about 10 percent of the dose of PB--a drug used currently and for many decades in the treatment of myasthenia gravis, a neurodegenerative condition that results in extreme muscle weakness and failure--crosses into the brain. Until now, it had been believed that PB did not cross the blood-brain barrier. 


ALS 

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, has been shown to have occurred at excessively high rates among Gulf War veterans and at far younger ages than is normally seen. The studies revealed that PB reduces the number of neurons in key areas of the brain, and that the PB and CP Gulf War chemicals were linked to ALS in the mouse models.

The findings suggest that CP exposures led to damage to the mitochondria in the cells, making individuals more susceptible to a highly problematic cycle of oxidative stress that may result in serious or even fatal neurological diseases, including ALS. 

Brain Cancer 

The studies revealed that PB stimulated negative effects in the brain more so than CP or sarin (DFP), and led to the development of a factor that leads to brain cancer.

Brain cancer in Gulf War veterans has been shown to exist at at least twice the rate of non-deployed Gulf War era troops, but there has been no explanation before now for what might be the causative factors.

The studies demonstrated that there is an initial, dramatic neuroinflammatory response in the mice, and that it diminishes over time. However, at the stage at which the studies were terminated by VA, it was unable to be determined what the effects of that final state might be, including whether it might still be capable of producing symptoms. 

Mitochondrial Effects 

Another of the studies was to show the toxic effects of Gulf War chemicals on the brain's neurons, the brain's building blocks. The study revealed early levels of damage, but was terminated by VA before it could reveal whether there was in fact damage to the cells and the powerhouse of the cells, mitochondria. If this damage was taking place, it was intended for the study to determine if the mitochondrial damage could potentially be treated by Coenzyme Q10, a substance produced naturally by the body and critical for the proper functioning of the cells.

"We are now at the point where we could be conducting studies that could help stop the neurological damage in ill Gulf War veterans where it is, or possibly even begin to reverse it," said Dr. Haley. 

What Next? 

"We are now at the point where we could be conducting studies that could help stop the neurological damage in ill Gulf War veterans where it is, or possibly even begin to reverse it," says Dr. Haley.

Yet, VA officials in the new administration do not seem willing to reverse the termination of the contract that funded Dr. Haley and his roughly 200 colleagues engaged on what can only be termed a massive effort aimed at successfully unlocking the chemical causes of, and treatments for Gulf War illness.

"I never believed that PB was part of this," said Dr. Haley. "I always believed it was sarin, sarin, sarin, possibly with the addition of chlorypyrifos or some other organophosphate [pesticide]. However, the evidence is clear and undeniable -- PB is a dangerous chemical."

One ill Gulf War veteran member of the committee, Anthony Hardie of Madison, Wis., stated his personal frustation with the VA's decision to cancel Dr. Haley's contract. "I have heard from Gulf War veterans across the country who are equally angry at the VA's crass decision to cancel your promising research program," he said.  "I hope that people [in the VA] know how wrong this decision was," he said.

Another Gulf War veteran member of the Committee, Marguerite Knox, from Columbia, S. Car., questioned if PB may still be carried currently by U.S. troops in the event of exposure to sarin or other nerve agents.

1 comment:

Candie said...

Angilico
I need this information for a VA claim. Is this your work, if so
can you PLEASE post more information on your sources for the following quote
"The studies revealed that PB stimulated negative effects in the brain more so than CP or sarin (DFP), and led to the development of a factor that leads to brain cancer.

"Brain cancer in Gulf War veterans has been shown to exist at at least twice the rate of non-deployed Gulf War era troops, but there has been no explanation before now for what might be the causative factors.

The studies demonstrated that there is an initial, dramatic neuroinflammatory response in the mice, and that it diminishes over time. However, at the stage at which the studies were terminated by VA, it was unable to be determined what the effects of that final state might be, including whether it might still be capable of producing symptoms."

My husband is a GW vet (Marine) with brain cancer, I need more information on this study.
Thank you