Even as the US military fights a war against terrorism, medical researchers are still puzzling over lingering illnesses that plague veterans of the Persian Gulf War. A new study begun recently at San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center will search for neurological signs of Gulf War Illness by imaging the brains of veterans.
The researchers are currently seeking Persian Gulf veterans to enroll in the study, said Michael Weiner, MD, chief of MR spectroscopy at SFVAMC and UCSF professor of radiology.
“We are interested in studying any Persian Gulf veterans – including those who have no health problems related to their Persian Gulf service, as well as those who have health problems that began during or shortly after their service in that conflict,” Weiner said.
Although VA studies have found that Gulf War veterans are less healthy overall than their peers who were stationed elsewhere, researchers have not agreed on specific causes for these illnesses. And there is no well-defined disease or syndrome that characterizes these health problems; however, the Department of Defense recently announced that Gulf War veterans are twice as likely as other veterans to develop amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The goal of this new five-year study is to search for changes in brain structure or function that are associated with illness among Gulf War veterans, Weiner said.
The study, funded by a $5 million grant from the US Department of Defense, will screen veterans using both MRI and a related technique called MR spectroscopy, which helps determine the health of neuron cells in the brain.
Participants will also undergo a battery of other sophisticated medical tests.
Veterans interested in participating in the study should call 1-800-773-4883. Subjects will receive financial reimbursement for the time they spend participating.
Funding for the study is being managed by the Northern California Institute for Research and Education (NCIRE).
NCIRE is one of the fastest growing medical research groups in the nation. Founded in 1988, NCIRE now manages more than $30 million in funding from organizations such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Science Foundation. Based at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, NCIRE is the largest of the 80 congressionally authorized VA research corporations.
The San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center has been a primary affiliate of University of California, San Francisco since 1974. The UCSF School of Medicine and the SFVAMC collaborate to provide education and training programs for medical students and residents at SFVAMC. SFVAMC maintains full responsibility for patient care and facility management of the medical center. Physicians at SFVAMC are employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and also hold UCSF faculty appointments.