Tuesday, October 25, 2016

New Study Links Chemical Alarms to Negative Brain Changes

(91outcomes.com) - Newly released study results suggest that 1991 Gulf War exposures that triggered chemical alarms damaged veterans' brain structure and function.

The study results, published this month in the peer-reviewed Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, looked at 1991 Gulf War veterans' self-reports of hearing chemical alarms going off during the war.  Previous estimates have suggested chemical alarms sounded tens of thousands of times across the Gulf War theater of operations during the six-week war to oust Iraqi military occupying forces from Kuwait.

A pair of studies in 2012 by Dr.'s James Haley and James Tuite provided new evidence that supports that chemical plumes from destroyed Iraqi chemical warfare production and storage facilities drifted down over and exposed large numbers of Gulf War troops to low-levels of sarin, mustard, and other Iraqi chemical warfare agents.

These latest findings were written by cognitive neuroscientist Linda Chao, PhD, who has a long track record of Gulf War-related research and peer-reviewed publication funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).



SOURCE:  PubMed, Dr. Linda Chao, Principal Investigator



 2016 Oct;58(10):1014-1020.

Associations Between the Self-Reported Frequency of Hearing Chemical Alarms in Theater and Visuospatial Function in Gulf War Veterans.



The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between the self-reported frequencies of hearing chemical alarms during deployment and visuospatial function in Gulf War (GW) veterans.


The relationship between the self-reported frequency of hearing chemical alarms, neurobehavioral, and volumetric brain imaging data was examined with correlational, regression, and mediation analyses.


The self-reported frequency of hearing chemical alarms was inversely associated with and significantly predicted performance on a visuospatial task (ie, Block Design) over and above potentially confounding variables, including concurrent, correlated GW-related exposures. This effect was partially mediated by the relationship between hearing chemical alarms and lateral occipital cortex volume.


Exposure to substances that triggered chemical alarms during GW deployment likely had adverse effects on veterans' brain structure and function, warranting further investigation of whether these GW veterans are at an increased risk for dementia.
[PubMed - in process] 

Friday, October 21, 2016

CDMRP Publicizes New Resources, including Gulf War Illness "Landscape"

(91outcomes.com) - Two significant new publicly available resources have been developed and publicly released by the Gulf War Illness Research Program (GWIRP), part of the U.S. Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP).  

The Gulf War Illness Landscape

The first new GWIRP public resource, just released today, is the GWIRP's "landscape" of Gulf War illness (GWI) research.  The GWIRP prepared this Landscape as an overview of what is currently known about topics consistent with the GWIRP's integrated, three-part, Congressionally-directed mission: identifying GWI treatments; improving the definition and diagnosis of GWI; and, understanding GWI's pathobiology and symptoms.

In addition to serving as a publicly available, regularly updated, abridged state-of-the-science resource, applicants for GWIRP research funding will now be strongly encouraged to read and consider, "The Gulf War Illness Landscape," when preparing GWIRP funding applications.

GWI Researcher Resources Initiative

The second newly public GWIRP resource is the GWIRP's "Researcher Resources Initiative."  Its aims are facilitating collaborations and speeding GWI treatment-focused research.  

The "Researcher Resources Initiative," produced from GWIRP-funded research, is a compilation of a number of collated lists of targeted research resources that currently include biomarkers of GWI, GWI "multi-omics" datasets, animal models of  GWI, GWI patient cohorts, GWI clinical interventions, and GWI-related biorepositories.  

These collated lists of GWIRP-funded research projects display available resources by GWIRP log numbers.  Interested researchers and clinicians are encouraged to contact GWIRP-funded research project principal investigators (PI's) directly for information and requests using included PI contact information.

Applicants for GWIRP research funding are encouraged to consider the Researcher Resources Initiative for state-of-the-science information and potential collaboration.

Moving Forward

As Chair of the GWIRP's Programmatic Panel (formerly the Integration Panel, which helps steer the GWIRP and makes GWIRP's research project applicant invitations and final funding decisions), I'm very proud of the efforts of GWIRP staff and fellow Programmatic Panel members, whose work made these important new resources a reality.  It is our shared hope that these new, publicly available resources will be of interest and value to GWI researchers, clinicians, patients and loved ones, policymakers, and other stakeholders.   

Both projects are available as links from the main GWIRP webpage, located at http://cdmrp.army.mil/GWIRP .

Additionally, the downloadable, full-color PDF GWIRP program booklet is available on the top-left of the GWIRP webpage, above, as well as a link to a searchable database of all previously funded CDMRP research.

-Anthony Hardie
Chair, GWIRP Programmatic Panel
Editor, 91outcomes.com
Gulf War veteran


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

STARS & STRIPES: VA extends deadline 5 more years for seeking Gulf War illness benefits

SOURCE:  Stars and Stripes, October 17, 2016, Nikii Wentling reporting



VA extends deadline for seeking Gulf War illness benefits to 2021

By NIKKI WENTLING | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 17, 2016
WASHINGTON – For the next five years, veterans will have an easier time seeking benefits for illnesses linked to service in the Gulf War because of an extension issued Monday by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Since 1994, the VA has automatically presumed a connection from Gulf War service, which included a toxic environment of oil fires and chemical weapons, to an increased risk for several illnesses. The connection enables veterans to receive a disability rating and benefits more quickly.
But the presumed connection and the ability to seek benefits was set to expire at the end of this year, after being extended four times previously. Effective Monday, the VA extended it a fifth time, to Dec. 31, 2021.
“This end date creates such an anxiety among the Gulf War veterans that gets so high as that deadline approaches,” said James Bunker, the executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center in Topeka, Kansas. “[Secretary Bob] McDonald promised us the beginning of this year that this extension would happen.”
As justification for the extension, the VA cited a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in February that found veterans deployed to the Gulf War have an increased risk for chronic fatigue syndrome, functional gastrointestinal conditions and mental health disorders, as well as a myriad of symptoms including headaches, joint pain, insomnia and respiratory issues that make up Gulf War illness.
In February 1991, an armored vehicle passes through a breached sand berm separating Saudi Arabia from Iraq, paving the way for advancing allied troops during the Gulf War.
In the extension filed with the Federal Register on Monday, the VA wrote symptoms could manifest in Gulf War veterans at any point, and there was “no medical or scientific basis” for stopping veterans from seeking benefits at the end of year. The rule applies to veterans who served in Southwest Asia from 1990 to now, including ones from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.
“Currently, military operations in the Southwest Asia theater continue,” the extension read. “No end date for the Gulf War has been established by Congress or the President. If extension of the current presumptive period is not implemented, servicemembers whose conditions manifest after Dec. 31, 2016 would be substantially disadvantaged.”
The VA is accepting comments about the extension through Dec. 16.
Bunker has a 100 percent service-connected disability rating from his time in the Gulf War, he said. He deployed with the First Infantry Division out of Fort Riley in Kansas and was medically evacuated in 1991 after struggling with respiratory and muscle problems. The VA granted Bunker service connection in 1992 for symptoms included in Gulf War illness.
Through the National Gulf War Resource Center, Bunker has appealed to Congress to eliminate the deadline permanently. The VA secretary is the only one with the authority to extend it.
“I know veterans wish the end date would be removed,” he said. “I wish we could get rid of it. Congress is the only body that can get rid of the end date, and they should do that to ease the anxiety of veterans.”
Of the 700,000 servicemembers deployed to the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991, 36.5 percent were experiencing some symptoms of Gulf War illness in 2005, according to a previous NAS study. The federal government spent more than $500 million on research related to Gulf War veterans from 1994 to 2014, but there’s been few findings about Gulf War illness and specific chemical agents that could be causing it, according to the NAS study from February.
Besides fighting to allow veterans to continue to seek benefits for Gulf War illness, advocates are tackling high rejection rates for Gulf War claims.
In March, the group Veterans for Common Sense issued a report stating the VA denied about 80 percent of claims filed by Gulf War veterans in the first half of 2015.
At a hearing before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs that month, the Veterans of Foreign Wars charged the VA was denying claims to try to rule out Gulf War illness intentionally, Stars and Stripes reported. VA officials at the hearing said its accuracy rate on Gulf War claims was about 90 percent.
“VA still has a hard time properly rating these claims,” Bunker said. “They seem to be in a constant form of denial when they do make mistakes on the benefits side.”
To find out more information about filing a claim for chronic disability related to Gulf War service, veterans can go to benefits.va.gov. http://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/claims-postservice-gulfwar.asp
To file a comment about the extension, the VA is asking people to contact the VA’s regulation and policy management office at 202-273-9026 or by mail at 810 Vermont Ave., NW, Room 1068, Washington, D.C., 20420.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

CDMRP-Funded Study Testing 9 Treatments for Gulf War Illness

(91outcomes.com) - A new study funded by the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) is testing nine different treatments in veterans with Gulf War Illness.

The study, Treating Gulf War Illness with Novel Anti-Inflammatories: A Screening of Botanical Microglia Modulators, is being led by Dr. Jarred Younger of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  During the course of the study, investigators will test the treatment viability of each of the nine plant-based treatments -- three in each veteran participant.  

A video about the new study is below, along with a link on how to participate and more information about the study.


From the Study Investigators:

"Information about our new study for Gulf War Illness where we study nine different potential treatments. Individuals who were in the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War and who live in Alabama can fill out the online screening form at: 

https://uab.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_eRk8ChC3GkOIpQF "


From the Study Abstract:

What is the purpose of this study? Gulf War Illness (GWI) is a potentially debilitating condition that affects over 250,000 veterans. There are currently no treatments available for GWI. This study is designed to test nine plant-based compounds that may reduce inflammation and help those with GWI.
What will we do? We will examine 40 individuals with GWI. Each individual will be randomly assigned to take 3 of the 9 treatments. They will not know which treatments they are receiving. They will record their symptoms every day on a handheld computer for 60 days for each treatment. We will then analyze the data to see which treatments show the most promise in treating GWI.
Why botanical treatments? Many of our most powerful medications are derived from plant sources. There are many botanicals that are currently available and have anti-inflammatory properties that may make them effective in treating GWI. Botanical treatments are generally much cheaper than pharmaceuticals, have fewer side-effects, and have a longer history of use in humans. However, they have not undergone proper scientific study, and there is a great amount of misinformation on the internet. These potentially helpful treatments therefore need to undergo clinical trials.
Why test nine treatments? When testing a treatment that has not been previously studied, there is a high chance it will not be successful in helping the disorder. In that case, all the time and money devoted to the study may be wasted. We have therefore chosen to test nine different treatments concurrently. Doing so increases our chances of finding at least one treatment that is effective in reducing GWI symptoms.
How did we choose the treatments? We believe that GWI is caused by inflammation in the brain. The inflammation results from overactive immune cells that are reacting to an unknown trigger. The chemicals released from the activated immune cells change the function of brain cells called neurons and cause pain, fatigue, cognitive problems, and other symptoms related to GWI. We believe that the best way to treat GWI is to administer anti-inflammatory agents. The idea is similar to how aspirin is used to reduce inflammation and swelling in the body, but common anti-inflammatory drugs do not cross into the brain easily. We are hoping to find plant-based compounds that can reach the brain and reduce inflammation.
What are the potential clinical applications? This study is designed to help individuals with GWI. It may treat the range of GWI symptoms. The treatments may also ultimately benefit other individuals, including people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, who have similar symptoms.
What are the risks? Botanical treatments have risks. Some compounds can cause stomach upset in some individuals. The compounds should not be taken by individuals who have low blood pressure, take blood pressure medication, have diabetes, have a blood clotting disease, or take anti-clotting medications.
How will this study advance GWI science and treatment? If these compounds work in GWI, it will strongly support the role of inflammation in GWI. Such information will help guide the science of GWI by pointing researchers and clinicians in the right direction for future work.
What is the projected time it may take to achieve a patient-related outcome? One of the main advantages of this study is that it tests compounds that are already available for human use. New drugs may take over 20 years, and millions of dollars, to go through the required regulations to be used in humans. In many cases, a treatment that works very well in animals fails to work at all in humans. During the time taken for drug development, patients continue to suffer. Individuals with GWI have already suffered for over 20 years and it is therefore essential that we test treatments and make them available as quickly as possible. We focus on treatments that allow us to skip animal testing and lengthy drug development. Individuals could take the treatments after the three-year study is completed. However, complete information about the effectiveness of the treatments may take up to 8 years to produce.

SOURCE:  http://cdmrp.army.mil/search.aspx?LOG_NO=GW130015