A pilot clinical study at The Roskamp Institute and Clinic examines the use of a naturally occurring lipid to improve and maintain brain function and health in veterans suffering from Gulf War Illness.

For over 25 years now, 250,000 veterans from the 1990-1991 Gulf War (GW) have suffered from a chronic and debilitating multisymptom illness, called Gulf War Illness (GWI). Veterans with GWI experience heterogeneous symptoms consisting of chronic pain, fatigue, and memory problems. To date, this illness remains difficult to treat given its complex underlying biology. We have recently shown that disturbances in fat (lipid) breakdown

may be a feature of GWI, present in both animal models of GWI and in blood from veterans suffering from this condition. We are now looking for ways to better understand whether changing the lipid composition in the body can help improve general health and wellbeing of veterans with GWI.

In the cells of the body, there are systems involved in the processing of lipids, which is important for maintaining healthy lipid levels. We recently performed laboratory studies with a naturally occurring lipid, oleoylethanolamide (OEA), that targets bodily systems that process lipids to determine if such a strategy could be useful for alleviating symptoms experienced by veterans with GWI. These studies showed that oral administration of OEA for 6-months improved learning and memory and reduced fatigue-like behavior in a GWI mouse model. These studies also showed that OEA administration restored normal processing of dietary fats and reduced brain inflammation in GWI mice. 

We are now planning to test this strategy in a pilot clinical study to examine how OEA affects blood lipids and whether this can be beneficial to brain function and health in those with GWI. The purpose of this study, which is funded by the US Department of Defense, is to see if OEA may help maintain normal lipid balance that supports normal lipid processing. As mentioned above, veterans with GWI have lipid profiles that indicate less than optimal function of bodily systems involved in lipid breakdown and processing, which may be normalized by OEA supplementation. We will also evaluate markers of healthy immune response with OEA supplementation in ill Gulf War veterans. Translational research such as this, which advances our laboratory-based science into clinical application, is the goal for all research conducted at The Roskamp Institute.

This is randomized, double-blind, placebo-control clinical study where enrolled participants will be asked to take the study intervention in a blinded manner once enrolled, and will undergo study procedures to collect blood samples and clinical information both before and after study intervention. Participants will take an OEA nutritional supplement to determine its effects on blood markers associated with lipid processing and inflammation.  

If this study shows positive results the data will provide the foundation for a much larger trial to evaluate OEA in a wider population of veterans with GWI. From this work, we will learn if natural lipid supplements can help the body retain normal blood lipid profiles and improve normal brain function and maintain activities of daily living.

For more information about the trial please contact Megan Parks at (941) 256 – 8018 ext. 3096.

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