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The researchers also assessed the impact of the dust on immune function. Using a broncho-alveolo lavage, they analyzed the fluid for cytokines IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, interferon-gamma, and the anti-inflammatory IL-10. None of the dust-treated mice had elevated IL-4 levels that would have indicated a pro-allergic response. The pro-inflammatory IL-2 levels, however, were markedly elevated in the mice treated with Iraq dust, and they also had reduced IL-10 levels.
“In short, inhaling the dust in our model shows pro-inflammatory and immunosuppressant responses that lead to lung injury,” Szema summarized.
That’s no surprise, said Rosie Torres, cofounder of Burn Pits 360.
“Ninety-five percent of the 2,000 people on our registry suffer from respiratory illnesses,” she told U.S. Medicine.
Her organization maintains a registry of more than 2,000 individuals, which has been used by researchers over the last few years to study the associations between exposures and specific illnesses.
The newly legislated VA burn-pit registry will further advance the study of those linkages, but Torres said she plans to keep the Burn Pit 360 registry up and growing for use by researchers.
“We will encourage people to register on both, once the VA has their registry up,” said Torres. “We want to make sure that information is available in as close to real time as possible for researchers.”
Several studies presented at this year’s and previous symposia relied on data from the Burn Pits 360 registry.
While the new legislation is specific to burn pits, the medical research required to fully understand the causes of respiratory and other illnesses among deployed servicemembers will need to examine many other, less discrete, factors as well, as the Stony Brook team’s studies showed.
“Burn pits were just one of the many deployment exposures service members confronted when serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. We need to gain a better understanding about other exposures as well,” Daniel Sullivan, president, the Sergeant Sullivan Center, told U.S. Medicine. The Sullivan Center is a Washington-based nonprofit group that seeks to increase knowledge of post-deployment illnesses.
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