Gulf War syndrome is defined as a set of pathologies affecting veterans of the same conflict. These are diseases that mainly affect the muscular and nervous system, whose cause was still indefinite. A team of American researchers found that the cause lies in some mitochondrial dysfunctions.
Scientists have analyzed the DNA of 28 veterans who took part in the conflict. In particular, they investigated the degree of injury and the number of copies of mitochondrial DNA. This way they measured the degree of mitochondrial damage. They then compared the results with those obtained from a control group.
The mitochondrial genetic material of veterans was 20% more damaged than that of the control group. According to the researchers, this may be the cause of many diseases that have affected these men. Mitochondria are in fact the organelles that produce ATP, a key molecule in energy management within cells.
During the Gulf War, soldiers have been exposed to many toxic substances such as carbamates and organophosphates. Both substances interact with mitochondria, hindering the transfer of electrons along the ATP synthesis chain. This results in increased free radicals, resulting in oxidative stress and damage to tissues and mitochondria.