New grant Awarded to Study Small-Fiber Polyneuropathy
By Anne Louise Oaklander, M.D. Ph.D, Massachusetts General Hospital
The Nerve Injury Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital has been awarded a grant from the Department of Defense to study Gulf War Illness, a currently unexplained chronic illness that affects some veterans of the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War, causing multiple symptoms including fatigue, chronic widespread pain, memory loss, skin changes, and gastrointestinal disorders. The causes of Gulf War Illness are unknown, but some war fighters might have been exposed to toxins or infectious diseases during their service.
The Mass. General team, headed by Anne Louise Oaklander and Max Klein, will look for evidence that some cases of Gulf War Illness may be caused by underlying small-fiber polyneuropathy. The grant will provide them the resources to work with neuropathy experts from around the world to develop a formal case definition for small-fiber polyneuropathy and to clarify the best ways to diagnose and monitor it.
This work is relevant to HSAN1, a different type of neuropathy, because some HSAN1 symptoms are caused by small-fiber polyneuropathy. At present, there are no widely accepted ways of identifying specific HSAN1 symptoms or testing for them, and the Gulf War grant should help develop these.