The study is essentially a proof of concept aimed at developing treatment targets: that a class of chemicals present in the 1991 Gulf War, organophosphates, could indeed have caused the brain damage found in research on MRI scans of representative samples of the 250,000 ill veterans of the 1991 Gulf War.
According to the principal investigator of the study, Dr. Alvin Terry of the Georgia Health Sciences University, "It is expected that the results of these studies will not only contribute to a better understanding of the basis for the neurological symptoms of GWI (the first step before new therapeutic targets can be identified and new treatments can be developed), but also a better understanding of the long-term toxicity of a class of chemicals that continues to pose a significant risk for military personnel as well as millions of civilians worldwide."
This particular study looks closely at organophosphates (OP's). Coalition troops were exposed to an array of OP's during the Gulf War, including to sarin and cyclosarin nerve agents following detonations of Iraqi chemical munitions during and after the war, including at the Khamisiyah demolitions, and to an array of Gulf War era pesticides, including DEET, chlorpyrifos, permethrin (a pyrethroid), and others.
According to a 2008 report of the Congressionally mandated Research Advisory Committee on Gulf war Veterans' Illnesses (RAC):
"The extensive body of scientific research now available consistently indicates that Gulf War illness is real, that it is a result of neurotoxic exposures during Gulf War deployment, and that few veterans have recovered or substantially improved with time."
Nerve agent protective pills administered to about 250,000 U.S. Gulf War troops (and other Coalition troops -- pyridostigmine bromide (PB) -- have also been implicated by medical researchers in Gulf War neurotoxic exposures. PB is from a class of chemicals similar to OP's, called carbamates.
According to the 2008 RAC report:
"Many classes of chemicals are neurotoxicants, that is, exposure to these compounds can have adverse biological and physical effects on the nervous system. Three types of neurotoxicant exposures encountered by Gulf War military personnel during deployment are chemically related. They include chemical nerve agents, many of the pesticides used during the Gulf War, and pyridostigmine bromide (PB), the drug given to troops as a protective measure in the event of nerve gas attack."
Mustard gas, prominent in the Iraqi chemical munitions arsenal at the time of the 1991 Gulf War including in the Khamisiyah detonations, has also been implicated in Gulf War Illness, including in a 2012 relook at Gulf War neurotoxic exposures funded by the chemical defense arm of the U.S. Department of Defense. Much of the what is known about the long term health effects of exposure to mustard gas was learned following human experimentation at the end of WWII and documented in a government commissioned 1993 report by the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences.
Representative OP's examined in Dr. Terry's study, below, include a surrogate for sarin nerve agent (DFP, diisopropylfluorophosphate) and chlorpyrifos, a potent pesticide used during the Gulf War.
*Special thanks to Gulf War veteran Mark Keener for sharing this article*
Source: The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle