Roskamp Institute examines the cellular responses to biological warfare agents

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In September of 2004, the research advisory committee on Gulf War veteran’s illnesses produced a report and recommendation on the scientific progress and understanding the complex condition known as Gulf War Syndrome.

This report suggested that important contributors to Gulf War Syndrome included the nerve agent prophylaxis pill, pyridostigmine bromide, pesticide exposure and potentially anthrax vaccination. One of the recommendations that came out of this committee’s work was that new state-of-the-art technology should be applied to Gulf War Syndrome to try to understand the causes and potential cures of this disorder.

The Roskamp Institute, in collaboration with the Veteran’s Administration (VA), won a grant to pursue this end. The particular approach taken by the Roskamp Institute is to analyze Gulf War Syndrome at the cellular level. To do this, new technology known as proteomics is being used. Proteomic analysis basically allows researchers at the Roskamp Institute to visualize all the proteins which change in a cell after exposure to these potentially toxic agents. In partnership with the Tampa VA, the Roskamp Institute researchers and VA researchers are identifying which proteins characterize exposure to pyridostigmine bromide, organophosphate pesticides and anthrax vaccination.

It will of particular interest to understand which of the proteins that are observed to change after exposure to these agents are specific to the central nervous system. The long-term goal of this project is to understand why Gulf War veterans may be impacted by Gulf War Syndrome and what the underlying biochemical disturbance may be. This in turn, may allow avoidance of Gulf War-type syndromes in the future and may allow VA/Roskamp Institute researchers to consider protection against such syndromes in the event of exposure to nerve agent prophylaxis or pesticides or anthrax vaccination.