Characterizing Accelerated Aging in Veterans of the Gulf War using Epigenetic Biomarkers

Gulf War illness (GWI) is a chronic multisymptom illness (CMI) like fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic fatigue syndrome.  GWI affects an estimated 25-32% of veterans who were deployed in support of the first Gulf War (1990-91) who continue to experience a host of persistent and reoccurring symptoms (e.g., fatigue, pain, rashes, and gastrointestinal issues) that cannot be explained by other diagnosed medical conditions.  An unanswered question for Gulf War veterans is whether or not individuals who experience GWI are  also at- risk for experiencing accelerated aging as evidenced by older “epigenetic clocks” and younger age of onset for various chronic conditions.  The overarching aim of this pilot  is to leverage rich data collected on Gulf War era veterans including self-reported survey data, GWAS (genome wide association study)  data, and electronic medical records to create generalizable knowledge regarding aging and disease progression. Specifically,  utilizing the Gulf War Era Cohort and Biorepository data repository, this pilot will  develop four estimates of epigenetic physiologic age for participants of the Gulf War Era Cohort and Biorepository in support of testing the following hypotheses: (1) Epigenetic age estimates will be higher in Veterans with GWI compared to those without GWI; (2)  Epigenetic age estimates will be higher in Veterans with chronic health conditions compared to those without chronic health conditions; (3) Epigenetic age estimates will be higher in Veterans with psychosocial stress, as measured by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Academic Year
2022-2023
Duke Principal Investigator(s)
Primary Funding Agency
NIA/CPHA Pilot
Award Year