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UC San Diego Studies on Gulf War Veterans Continue

Lading expert on Gulf War illness seeking participants: "At last, a treatment study!"

July 18, 2008  |  

In a follow up study to a breaking news story that found evidence linking illnesses in Persian Gulf War Veterans to exposure to certain chemicals, a group of researchers at UC San Diego School of Medicine is launching the next in a series of studies related to Gulf War Illnesses – this time seeking to help these veterans’ health.

Beatrice Golomb, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor, Division of General Internal Medicine, UC San Diego School of Medicine and attending physician, VA San Diego Healthcare System, is spearheading a Department of Defense-funded clinical trial, CoEnzyme Q10 for Gulf War Veterans, enrolling 40 veterans with Gulf War Illness in the San Diego area.

“Gulf War veterans and their advocates have long been pleading for treatment studies – there is a strong need for approaches to reduce symptoms and suffering in affected Gulf War veterans” said Golomb.  “This study will test whether CoQ10 will help. This compound has an excellent safety record, has benefited similar symptoms in other settings, and we believe it may address mechanisms that underlie development of health problems in Gulf War veterans.”

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a compound made naturally in the body, and is necessary for basic cell function. CoQ10 levels are reported to decrease with age and to be low in patients with some chronic diseases such as heart conditions, muscular dystrophies, Parkinson's disease, cancer, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS.  Levels can be raised by taking supplements.

CoQ10 is the principal fat soluble antioxidant made by the body but is often made in inadequate quantities. It is also central to cell energy production and every cell requires energy to carry out its functions, and to survive. Golomb contends that many and perhaps all of the exposures, (such as chemicals and vaccines) that have been linked to illness in Gulf War veterans, lead the body to produce free radicals – “oxidative stress” – which can damage cell function and energy production – and lead to cell death. CoQ10 counteracts all three problems, fighting free radical injury, supporting cell energy, and protecting against cell death.

Previous studies have shown that veterans from the 1990 - 1991 conflict have a higher rate of chronic, multi-symptom health problems than either non-deployed personnel or those deployed elsewhere.  Symptoms routinely reported by these veterans include: fatigue, muscle or joint pain, memory problems, trouble sleeping, rashes and breathing problems among others. The exact pattern of symptoms differs from veteran to veteran.

Current Study Requirements:

  • Participants must have been deployed in the Persian Gulf War during the period between August 1, 1990 and July 31, 1991, and must have developed health problems during or after their participation – problems such as fatigue, musculoskeletal symptoms, or mood or cognitive changes.
  • Each participant will be involved in a total of six visits over a 12 month period. 
  • All visits will be conducted on campus at UC San Diego School of Medicine, La Jolla and will last between two and three hours. 
  • Visits will involve a blood draw, an interview, filling out questionnaires and some light exercise. 
  • Study participants will be asked to wear a pedometer for two weeks prior to each study visit.

All participants will receive a placebo (inactive pill) for part of the study, and each of two doses of CoEnzyme Q10 for other parts of the study.  The dose will change at each visit.  Neither participants nor the study staff will know any participant's study drug assignment at any point in the study but all participants will receive the active treatment during their participation.

Participants will receive compensation for time and travel, copies of clinically relevant lab work and a personalized dietary analysis. They will also be eligible to receive copies of their other test results, including symptom and performance levels on the different treatment regimens, after the study is completed.

“Our hope is that this may pave the way to effective treatments – and improved well-being—for Gulf War veterans,” said Golomb.

Golomb is a member and former Chief Scientist for the Department of Veterans Affairs Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses.  She has authored or coauthored four RAND reports/ books on the relation of exposures to illness in Gulf War veterans. She has also delivered nearly 30 briefings to government agencies on various aspects of the illness. Her work and findings have led to changes in US and foreign policy on the use of nerve agent protection measures in wartime.

Potential participants please contact the study coordinator, Janis Ritchie, 858-558-4950, ext. 203, or at

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Media Contact: Kim Ewards, 619-543-6163,

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