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Proposed Gulf War Research Studies

Studies Needing Funding (2013 and beyond)

A. In Phase IV and  Phase V, we generated an immense database containing the greatest variety of brain imaging tests ever performed on the same set of ill and well comparison subjects. We have proposed a large multi-disciplinary statistical analysis project to analyze these data with new techniques from study Phase IX-A to develop a diagnostic test for Gulf War illness—proposal has been submitted to the Department of Defense, and we are awaiting a funding decision. The potential payoff is an efficient diagnostic test using brain imaging or EEG.

B. We also need funding to continue the statistical analysis of our immense database for the different purpose of understanding the brain mechanisms involved in causing the symptoms of Gulf War illness. Since millions of dollars have already been spent generating this immense database on representative samples of ill and well veterans, the heavy lifting has already been done, and we need modest funding to complete the analysis of mechanisms. The potential payoff is understanding the brain mechanisms that will help point to novel treatment ideas.

C. Given that our initial genomic study identified a well-known oncogene (cancer-causing gene) that has been rendered unstable in ill Gulf War veterans compared with well ones, the next step is to sequence this oncogene in the DNA that we have stored on the 2,100 members of our national sample of Gulf War veterans to identify the molecular cause of this instability that may be causing the increased risk of brain cancer in the Gulf War veteran population. The potential payoff is a diagnostic test and a treatment to prevent the development of brain cancer.

D. We have received a small grant from the Department of Defense to test the level of functioning of the whole human genome in our two samples of Gulf War veterans, looking for genes that are functioning at different levels in the ill and well veterans (see Phase IX. Funded studies currently in progress). This grant supports the blood collection and stimulation 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. We are seeking matching funds to perform the measurements and analysis on the other 13 conditions to complete the study. If successful, the payoff will be the development of a simple, inexpensive blood test to diagnose Gulf War illness.

E. In our previous studies supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs, we collected and preserved blood and DNA samples from a representative sample (2,100 veterans in all) of the 1991 U.S military population [References]. We are seeking funding to test the DNA samples for evidence of damage from chemical exposures known to have occurred in the 1991 Gulf War [References]. The latest genomic technology allows us to test for damage indicated by abnormal methyl groups attached to the DNA, a toxic process called “DNA methylation.” Finding a unique pattern of methylation in the ill veterans who were exposed to dangerous chemicals would provide a powerful diagnostic test for this condition and identify the damaged metabolic pathways that underlie the symptoms of Gulf War illness. These findings could lead to important advances in both diagnosis and treatment.