Genetic link between migraine and blood sugar levels confirmed
Migraine and glucose-related traits such as fasting insulin and type 2 diabetes are widely understood to be common comorbid disorders, but now scientists have a concrete genetic link that could see a new area of therapy developed for the debilitating disorders.
Researchers at Australia’s Queensland University of Technology have uncovered the culprit correlating genes that see so many migraine and headache sufferers also combat glycemic traits that deliver a double whammy of health issues. It's estimated that migraine affects more than 10% of the world’s population, and is about three times more prevalent in women, impacting more than 17% of women in the US.
“As far back as 1935, migraine was described as a ‘glycemic headache,’” said Dale Nyholt, professor at the QUT Centre for Genomics and Personalised Health. “Glycemic traits such as insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia (too much insulin), hypoglycemia (low blood sugar level) and type 2 diabetes are associated with migraine and headache.”
The findings came about after researchers analyzed the genomes of thousands of migraine patients to see if any genetic links could be determined. They performed cross-trait analyses to identify shared genomic regions, loci, genes and pathways, then tested for casual relationships.
“Out of the nine glycemic traits we looked at, we found a significant genetic correlation for fasting insulin (blood insulin level) and glycated hemoglobin with both migraine and headache, while two-hour glucose was genetically correlated only with migraine,” said Rafiqul Islam, PhD researcher at QUT. "We also found regions harboring genetic risk factors shared between migraine and fasting insulin, fasting glucose, and glycated hemoglobin, and for headache, shared regions with glucose, fasting insulin, glycated hemoglobin, and fasting proinsulin.”
The genetic overlap is a significant step forward in understanding how migraine and its associated glycemic traits present, and it opens up exciting new avenues for medical intervention.
“By identifying genetic correlations and shared loci and genes in our analyses we have inferred causal association and thus confirmed and improved understanding of the relationship between migraine, headache and glycemic traits.” Nyholt said.
This improved understanding will be welcome news to the millions across the globe managing these significant health issues.
“Our findings provide avenues to develop novel treatment strategies for managing glycemic traits in migraine and headache patients, particularly increasing fasting proinsulin level to protect against headache,” added Islam.
The study was published in journal Human Genetics.