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UT Southwestern to study Gulf illness - Dallas: Congress OKs $75 million for facility to consolidate research http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/nation/13223719.htm

Paper: Dallas Morning News, The (TX)
Title: UT Southwestern to study Gulf illness - Dallas: Congress OKs $75 million for facility to consolidate research
Author: KATIE FAIRBANK
Date: November 19, 2005
Section: METRO
Page: 1B

A Gulf War illness research center will be established at UT Southwestern Medical Center under legislation that also allocates $75 million toward research.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who has pushed for the study of Gulf War illness for years, wrote the bill, which passed both chambers Friday. It will be sent to President Bush for his approval.

The legislation requires the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to spend at least $15 million a year for five years on the research. It consolidates ongoing research at facilities in New Jersey and Washington, D.C., with study under way at UT Southwestern.

"Consolidating research and supporting it with real funding is a solid commitment to providing the right care to our Gulf War veterans," Ms. Hutchison said.

Gulf War illness has been reported by thousands of veterans, though the cause has been widely debated.

The symptoms are varied and are often debilitating, including chronic fatigue, migraines, memory problems, stomach upset and dizziness.

"There is a whole slew of different problems," said Steve Smithson, deputy director for veterans affairs and rehabilitation with the American Legion. "Science really hasn't been able to find a unique syndrome, but more of a compilation of syndromes."

For years, the Defense Department debated whether Gulf War syndrome existed.

Many people blamed veterans' health problems on post-traumatic stress. Earlier this week, the Veterans Affairs Department was criticized by veteran advocates for spending only $400,000 out of $15 million allocated on how toxic substances affect soldiers.

"It's frustrating. There are still some who feel it's all in their head, but mainstream research is moving into other directions looking at physical exposures," Mr. Smithson said.

Dr. Robert Haley, an epidemiologist at UT Southwestern, was one of the first to study the exposure of Gulf War veterans to toxic chemicals. The research was launched in 1994 with the help of a grant from the Perot Foundation of Dallas.

Dr. Haley's work helped establish the foundation for the research to move to Dallas, Ms. Hutchison said.

"We've got a long track record. We've got a productive line of research and nobody else does. She's going to put some money here and let us run with it," Dr. Haley said.

UT Southwestern has made several steps positioning itself as the leader in Gulf War research. The medical center, which worked on funding of $2.1 million in 2004 and $1 million this year, has established an advanced brain-imaging center and is poised to complete a national survey of Gulf War veterans to identify how many are ill. It is also studying mice and rats to try to determine the effects of sarin nerve gas.

"When this new funding becomes available, all of this will come to fruition," Dr. Haley said. "We're going to learn from the combination of these things what is going on in the brains of sick Gulf War veterans."

E-mail kfairbank@dallasnews.com

Author: KATIE FAIRBANK
Section: METRO
Page: 1B