Mitochondrial Damage Found in Gulf War Veterans

At the 2015 APS Conference: Physiological Bionergetics: From Bench to Bedside, Dr. Yang Chen from Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences gave a presenentation entitled “Mitochondrial DNA is damaged in military veterans with fatiguing conditions”. The talk focused on the involvement of mitochondria in the medical condition known as Gulf War Illness (GWI)

Gulf War veterans who suffer from chronic fatigue, muscle pain, and cognitive dysfunction, commonly classified as Gulf War Illness, may be suffering from chemical-induced mitochondrial damage.

Previous studies suggest that the symptoms of GWI are due to dysfunction of the mitochondria, the part of the cells that generates energy. Dysfunctional mitochondria can cause fatigue and a variety of other systemic illnesses.

The mitochondrion has its own DNA (mtDNA), separate from the cell’s, that encodes the proteins needed to produce the molecules that power the body’s processes. In a recent study funded by the Veteran Affairs (VA) Clinical Science Research & Development Service, at the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center, researchers measured the mtDNA amount and degree of mtDNA damage in blood cells from blood samples from veterans with GWI.  The findings showed that Gulf War veterans had more mtDNA content and greater mtDNA damage compared to healthy non-deployed controls, providing for the first time direct evidence that mitochondrial dysfunction may be involved in GWI.

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