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Bay Pines VA Healthcare System

 

Bay Pines Researcher selected to Receive Grant to Study Gulf War Toxins

March 25, 2016

BAY PINES, FL – Dr. Bruce Citron, a Molecular Biologist with the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System (VAHCS) Research and Development Service, was selected to receive a Department of Defense (DoD) research grant for a three-year study to examine the relationship between toxin exposure and neurological issues experienced by Gulf War Veterans.

Grant funding is being provided by DoD’s Office of Congressionally Directed Research Programs (CDMRP).  The grant award totals nearly $545,000.

The study will test the hypothesis that exposure to Gulf War toxins such as nerve agent protectant, insect repellent and insecticides produce measurable negative neurological changes impacting cognitive performance, neuronal connectivity in the brain, and normal brain cell function.  Citron will also test the hypothesis that antioxidant therapy may stop or slow down disease processes associated with diagnosed neurological issues like Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“The data tells us that about 20 percent of Veterans who served in Operation Desert Storm have some type of Gulf War illness.  Within this group, neurological conditions are very common,” said Citron, who also serves as a professor with the Department of Molecular Medicine, Morsani College of Medicine, University of South Florida.

“This is obviously a significant health concern and one that we are trying to better understand through research,” he continued.  “Understanding the brain and neurological mechanisms has been a research focus of mine for many years. This grant is allowing us to expand research into these areas as well as further explore possible therapeutic agents that may arrest or slow down neurological decline.”

The study is scheduled to begin next month and conclude in March 2019 and includes the participation of members of his lab, Drs. Jessica Chang and Whitney Ratliff, and collaborators from the University of South Florida, Drs. Clifton Gooch, Ronald Mervis, and Getachew Dagne.

“Research is a critical part of our mission here at Bay Pines as well as the entire Veterans Health Administration,” said Dr. Allison Williams, Associate Chief of Staff for Research, Bay Pines VAHCS. “VA Research is also unique because of its focus on health issues that affect America’s Veterans.”

“We are very proud that Dr. Citron has been selected to begin research work in an area that affects so many Veterans that bravely served during the Gulf War,” she continued. “It is our aim to better understand the relationship between toxin exposure and neurological issues while contributing to advancements in health care for Veterans and others.”

When active, Citron’s study will become one of many active research protocols ongoing within the Bay Pines VAHCS.  In 2015 alone, the healthcare system’s Research and Development Service managed 54 active research projects funded at more than $1.6 million.  Active areas of study include neurological disorders, cardiology, mental health, audiology, infectious disease, dermatology, pulmonology, oncology and long-term care.

To learn more about VA Research, please visit www.research.va.gov.

About the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System
The Bay Pines VAHCS is one of the nation’s leading VA healthcare systems, employing more than 4,000 medical professionals and support staff dedicated to providing the very best care to Veterans residing in southwest Florida. The organization is the fourth busiest VA health care system in the country in terms of patients served and is accredited by The Joint Commission, Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, and several other nationally recognized accrediting organizations. The Bay Pines VAHCS operates nine facilities to include the main medical center located in Bay Pines and outpatient clinics located in Bradenton, Cape Coral, Naples, Palm Harbor, Port Charlotte, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, and Sebring.  To learn more, please visit www.baypines.va.gov or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/vabaypines.