FORT LAUDERDALE-DAVIE, Fla. – As the nation honors our veterans on November 11, we must pause to remember the long-lasting health effects soldiers experience not only from bullets or bombs, but from exposure to unexplained pesticides, radiation or other toxins during their time in the service.
At least a quarter of the 700,000 soldiers who fought in the 1991 Gulf War suffer from a debilitating disease called Gulf War illness (GWI).
GWI is a medical condition that affects both men and women and is associated with symptoms including fatigue, chronic headaches, memory problems, muscle and joint pain, gastrointestinal issues, neurological problems, respiratory symptoms, hormonal imbalance and immune dysfunction.
Researchers at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) are conducting multiple studies to learn more about and ultimately help veterans facing GWI. Two NSU research teams recently received grants from the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity totaling $1,830,389 to fund three studies.
- Improving Diagnostics and Treatments for GWI Females by Accounting for the Effects of PTSD1 – $655,822 (Travis Craddock, Ph.D., principal investigator)
- Disentangling the Effects of PTSD from GWI for Improved Diagnostics and Treatments2 – $592,825 (Travis Craddock, Ph.D., principal investigator)
- Persistently Elevated Somatic Mutation as a Biomarker of Clinically Relevant Exposures in Gulf War Illness3 – $581,742 (Stephen Grant, Ph.D., principal investigator)
The first two, three-year studies1&2 are aimed at identifying subgroups of GWI based on the presence or absence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from time on the battlefield in both men and women. Dr. Craddock and his research team will perform a systems biology analysis to isolate biobehavioral profiles that identify the effects of PTSD in GWI to improve diagnostic criteria and to assess potential treatment avenues for GWI in the context of probable PTSD diagnosis.
GWI is at least in part caused by illness-specific inflammatory activity. The extent and nature of the resulting inflammation may be altered in people who also experience PTSD, leading to a shift in treatment targets/strategies for each subtype. Specifically, Dr. Craddock's team aims to understand the role of systemic inflammatory mechanisms in GWI in the presence and absence of probable PTSD diagnosis as this is critical to define subtypes of GWI, and for the development of subtype-specific treatments.
Travis Craddock, Ph.D., assistant professor in the NSU College of Psychology's Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, and associate director of the NSU Institute for Neuro-Immune Medicine's Clinical Systems Biology Group, is the principal investigator for the first two studies. His research team includes Nancy Klimas, M.D., director, NSU Institute for Neuro-Immune Medicine; Gordon Broderick, Ph.D., director, NSU Institute for Neuro-Immune Medicine's Clinical Systems Biology Group; and Stephen Messer, Ph.D., associate professor, NSU College of Psychology's Department of Clinical Psychology.
The final three-year study3 is based on the idea that long-term effects of exposures from service in the Gulf Wars are due to damage affecting the regenerative stem cells of the body. Dr. Grant and his research team will examine the cumulative effects of many types of exposures that can damage DNA in cells (genotoxicity) using blood samples from patients with GWI to help determine possible causes of the disease using a patent-pending biodosimetric technique.
Rather than identify a single agent as cause for GWI, the study proposes that it is due to the cumulative effect of all exposures. Results of the study could be used to develop new treatments and screen patients to predict who is at greatest risk of developing symptomatic GWI.
Stephen Grant, Ph.D., associate professor in Nova Southeastern University (NSU) College of Osteopathic Medicine's Master of Public Health Program, is the principal investigator for the latter study. His research team includes Nancy Klimas, M.D., director, NSU Institute for Neuro-Immune Medicine; Mary Ann Fletcher, Ph.D., NSU's Schemel Professor for Neuro-Immune Medicine; and Jean Latimer, Ph.D., director of the new NSU AutoNation Institute for Breast and Solid Tumor Cancer Research.
The U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity, 820 Chandler Street, Fort Detrick MD 21702- 5014 is the awarding and administering acquisition office. These works were supported by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs through the Gulf War Illness Research Program under Award Nos. W81XWH-16-1-0632, W81XWH-16-1-0552 and W81XWH-16-1-0678. Opinions, interpretations, conclusions and recommendations are those of the authors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Department of Defense.
About Nova Southeastern University (NSU): Located in beautiful Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) is a dynamic research institution dedicated to providing high-quality educational programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and first-professional degree levels. A private, not-for-profit institution, NSU has campuses in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Miramar, Orlando, Palm Beach, and Tampa, Florida, as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico, while maintaining a presence online globally. For more than 50 years, NSU has been awarding degrees in a wide range of fields, while fostering groundbreaking research and an impactful commitment to community. Classified as a research university with "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, NSU is 1 of only 50 universities nationwide to also be awarded Carnegie's Community Engagement Classification, and is also the largest private, not-for-profit institution in the United States that meets the U.S. Department of Education's criteria as a Hispanic-serving Institution. Please visit http://www.nova.edu for more information about NSU and realizingpotential.nova.edu for more information on the largest fundraising campaign in NSU history.