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Professor gets $715,000 DOD grant for Gulf War illness research

By ANDY KRAVETZ | Journal Star, Peoria, Ill. | Published: April 27, 2016

PEORIA, Ill. (Tribune News Service) — A Peoria-based medical school professor has received $715,000 from the U.S. Department of Defense to investigate what might have caused Gulf War illness.

Dr. Stephen Lasley, a pharmacology professor at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, has spent years working on the neurological reactions that could have led to the disease that has affected thousands of veterans who served in that conflict. The goal is to find a treatment to provide relief and possibly reverse the neuro-inflammation that he and others think could play a factor in Gulf War illness.

The three-year grant is a continuation of his work over the past 15 years. The basic theory is that several factors, such as battlefield stress, pesticides and anti-nerve gas drugs, combined to cause neurological reactions in veterans who were there. The exact combination isn't known and likely wouldn't be, given the length of time and the large number of people exposed as well as the different situations the troops were in.

One thing is clear: Veterans who were in the Gulf suffer from chronic fatigue, loss of muscle control, diarrhea, migraines, dizziness, memory problems and loss of balance far more than those who weren't in the Middle East.

Lasley believes stress from being in a war zone plays a crucial role in the onset of the disease and is looking for ways to reduce or even reverse brain inflammation. To that end, he's using mice and monitoring their behavior. The hope is answers for vets.

"We are to the point now where treatments that we want to apply are less shots in the dark and more based upon research findings," he said. "We would like to be able to help the Gulf War veterans who have suffered for more than 25 years now."

He hopes his research will show that existing drugs can provide relief, allowing quick routes to treatment options. He also is applying for another federal grant that could take some aspects of his research and apply it to pesticides, as many others are affected by the use of such chemicals.

akravetz@pjstar.com

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