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Thread: New Culprit in GWS?

  1. #1
    Veteran Member mellowsong's Avatar
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    Default New Culprit in GWS?

    New Suspect in Gulf War Illness

    ShareDr. Douglas FieldsChief of the Nervous System Development and
    Plasticity Section, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
    Posted: March 3, 2010 02:25 PM
    New Suspect In Gulf War Syndrome

    Washington, D.C.- On February 26, 2010, the Veterans Affairs Department
    announced that it will re-examine the disability claims of thousands of
    Persian Gulf War veterans still suffering from the mysterious Gulf War
    illnesses two decades after the war ended. At a meeting of the Federal
    Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veteran's Illnesses held yesterday in
    Washington, D.C., scientists from around the country presented their latest
    research to committee members searching for clues to this mysterious
    illness. Early in the meeting a new culprit emerged - "the other brain" -
    the non-electric portion of the brain composed of brain cells called glia.

    "This is one of the best explanations I've heard," commented distinguished
    neuroscientist Floyd Bloom, after a presentation by Dr. Linda Watkins of the
    University of Colorado speaking about her latest research showing that glial
    cells, called microglia, are the unsuspected agents in chronic pain and drug
    addiction. Previously neurons were thought to be the sole cause of chronic
    pain and morphine tolerance. However, the new insight into how these "immune cells" of the brain aggravate neurons after an injury by releasing
    substances that produce excruciating pain, a parallel with Gulf War Syndrome
    became apparent.

    Gulf War syndrome is characterized by a collection of unexplained symptoms,
    many of them neurological, including chronic pain, chronic fatigue,
    depression, sleep disturbances, memory loss, as well as gastrointestinal and
    lung problems. A number of causes have been suspected, including exposure to low-level neurotoxins, including sarin gas, drugs taken to protect soldiers
    from biological and chemical warfare agents, pesticides used to treat tents
    and soldier's uniforms stationed in the desert, depleted uranium from
    munitions, and the toxic mixture of fumes released for a year after the war
    ended from oil fields set ablaze by the retreating Iraq soldiers. The toxic
    fumes blotted out the sun at midday for miles.

    Many people suffer chronic pain after an injury. Unlike normal pain, chronic
    pain does not end after the injury heals; in fact it often gets worse. The
    latest research shows that chronic pain results from an interaction between
    the immune system and the brain. When we are sick, substances are released
    by the body that tell the brain to initiate the familiar "sickness
    response," which we have all experienced, for example when we catch the
    flu. Profound fatigue, headache, sensitivity to light and sound, and painful
    joints and muscles, drive us to bed. This sickness response forces us to
    rest and give the body the opportunity to fight the invading germ. This
    sounds a lot like the symptoms of many Gulf War veterans.

    What Dr. Watkins suspects, based on her research on microglia in chronic
    pain, is that an initial exposure to some toxin "primes" the microglia in
    the brain to make them hyper alert. Then when a second infection, injury, or
    toxin is experienced, the brain's immune cells over-react, releasing too
    much of the chemical signals that cause the "sickness response", and they do
    not stop releasing the substances after the body heals. In the case of Gulf
    War veterans, the "initial trigger" could have been a reaction to an
    immunization, stress, or exposure to low-level toxins. Later a second insult
    to the body unleashes a run-away illness. Research from several labs on
    microglia in chronic pain has identified many steps in this neuro-immune
    signaling process that become disrupted and researchers have found specific
    drugs to restore the normal function of these pain circuits, thus ending the
    chronic pain. Most of this work is in laboratory animals but clinical
    studies are now under way.

    In my overview to the committee on the four major kinds of glial cells in
    "the other brain", several other ways in which glia could be involved in
    Gulf War illnesses were recognized. This includes the involvement of glial
    cells, called astrocytes, in processing toxins in the brain. Parkinson's
    disease, for example can be caused by astrocytes acting on a foreign
    substance (a recreational drug), and converting it into a toxin that kills
    the neurons that die in Parkinson's Disease. Astrocytes also release factors
    that protect neurons from damage caused by inflammation or oxidation, and
    they release growth factor proteins that stimulate the growth and repair of
    neurons.

    The latest research on the myelin insulation on nerve fibers in the brain,
    which is essential for sending electrical signals, is revealing a previously
    unsuspected role of myelin in cognition and psychiatric illness. Myelin
    insulation is especially vulnerable to blast injuries and to autoimmune
    diseases in which the body's immune system attacks the myelin sheath. The
    myelin sheath is made by a type of glial cell, called an oligodendrocyte.
    Prevously this insulation was of interest in diseases such as multiple
    sclerosis, but because the insulation speeds the rate of electrical
    transmission through nerve fibers (axons), myelin is now understood to have
    an important role in cognitive function, psychological illness, and
    learning.

    One of the reasons the Gulf War Syndrome may have been so difficult to
    understand is that glia-the other brain-has itself been such a mystery until
    recently.

    http://www.veteranstoday.com/2010/03...lf-war-illness

    Further reading
    The Other Brain http://theotherbrainbook.com
    New Culprits in Chronic Pain, Scientific American, November, 2009
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/ar...n-chronic-pain

    White Matter Matters, Scientific American, March, 2008
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/ar...matter-matters

  2. #2
    Administrator Islander's Avatar
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    Default Re: New Culprit in GWS?

    I don't suppose that depleted uranium has anything to do with this....

  3. #3
    Veteran Member Maurya's Avatar
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    Default Re: New Culprit in GWS?

    The notorious burn pit should be held at least partially responsible, as well.

  4. #4
    Veteran Member mellowsong's Avatar
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    Default Re: New Culprit in GWS?

    I think they're acknowledging that these exposures were the initial insult that primed the micro-glia to go into overdrive.

    What Dr. Watkins suspects, based on her research on microglia in chronic
    pain, is that an initial exposure to some toxin "primes" the microglia in
    the brain to make them hyper alert. Then when a second infection, injury, or
    toxin is experienced, the brain's immune cells over-react, releasing too
    much of the chemical signals that cause the "sickness response", and they do
    not stop releasing the substances after the body heals.

    In the case of Gulf War veterans, the "initial trigger" could have been a reaction to an immunization, stress, or exposure to low-level toxins. Later a second insult
    to the body unleashes a run-away illness.
    Last edited by Islander; 03-05-10 at 11:19 AM.

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