Some disturbing news from Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, where researchers say they are finding an unusually high number of patients with Lou Gehrig's Disease among veterans of the first Gulf War back in 1991. ALS is a fatal degenerative disorder that attacks the nerve cells in the muscles and spine. Dr. Robert Haley says he's studied a cluster of 20 Gulf War veterans with ALS including Carl Robinson. Seven years after Carl came back from the Gulf War, the disease paralyzed him. He died two years later. Dr. Haley and his team at UT Southwestern believe Carl's ALS is linked to his time in the Gulf War.
Dr. Haley says that this number was two to three times greater than the expected number given the age distribution of Gulf War veterans. Dr. Haley's research is confirmed in a larger study form the Department of Veteran Affairs and raises questions about whether the condition might have been triggered by unusual environmental exposures in the war. What makes the research even more confusing is that all the Gulf War veterans with ALS served in different branches of the armed service and were deployed in different parts of the gulf. So, more study is needed to figure out what they might have had in common.
Dr. Haley's study of 20 Gulf War veterans with ALS found nearly 2/3 had Gulf War Syndrome prior to developing ALS. Researchers note that it is likely that the ALS cases they studied represent less than half the true number of young Gulf War veterans with the disease. It affects about 30,000 Americans almost entirely in patients between the ages of 50 and 70, rarely appearing before age 45. Dr. Haley's full study is published in the September 23rd issue of the journal, Neurology.
Good news from the journal, Nature Genetics. Researchers in Iceland report they've found a gene that is linked to many of the most common types of stroke. They believe that gene may be an even more significant risk factor than high blood pressure and smoking. The best part of all this is that gene apparently makes an enzyme that is a good target for new drugs to better prevent and treat strokes, something that could help a large number of the estimated 6,000,000 Americans who suffer a stroke every year.