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Phase IX – Funded Studies Underway

A. When our previous study of baseline (unstimulated) RNA gene expression in blood samples of ill and well Gulf War veterans failed to identify a diagnostic test for Gulf War illness itself, the next step toward developing a simple blood test for Gulf War illness was to repeat this study except after stimulating the blood samples with certain biochemical stimulants to enhance the RNA signals that differentiate the groups. We have received a small grant from the Department of Defense to bring in samples of the ill and well Gulf War veterans, collect a blood sample, separate our the different types of white blood cells, stimulate each type with different chemicals that bring out abnormal functioning, and then measuring the change in gene expression to identify genes that are functioning abnormally in the ill veterans compared with the well veterans. This grant supports the blood collection and stimulation and preservation of the blood cells with chemicals that will accentuate group differences in gene functions so they can be detected, as well as the final RNA measurement and analysis of two of the 15 test conditions (blood cell type by stimulant conditions). We are seeking matching funds to perform the measurements and analysis on the other 13 conditions to complete the study (see Proposed Studies). If successful, the payoff will be the development of a simple, inexpensive blood test to diagnose Gulf War illness.

B. We have received grant funding from the Department of Defense to bring small groups of Gulf War veterans with Gulf War illness and well veteran controls in for PET scans (positron-emission tomography) of the brain, using a newly developed technology that allows the scanner to detect subtle inflammation of the brain that may be causing the symptoms of Gulf War illness. A successful result would stimulate further studies to try to subdue the inflammatory process to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of Gulf War illness. We are collaborating in this study with the Johns Hopkins University Neuroimaging Center in Baltimore.

C. A new study to extend our novel statistical approach to brain imaging to allow combining imaging findings from several types of brain images to gain more insight into the disease than possible from any one of them – supported by a grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, NIH. This project has been completed, and a scientific paper is being proposed. [References]