Medical

Massive migraine study triples the number of known genetic risk factors

Massive migraine study triples...
The largest genetic study on migraines ever carried out has revealed a new set of genetic risk factors for the condition
The largest genetic study on migraines ever carried out has revealed a new set of genetic risk factors for the condition
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The largest genetic study on migraines ever carried out has revealed a new set of genetic risk factors for the condition
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The largest genetic study on migraines ever carried out has revealed a new set of genetic risk factors for the condition

A massive international study designed to unearth new knowledge around the causes of migraines has turned up some interesting new insights, with the authors effectively tripling the number of known genetic risk factors for the ailment. The findings also shed new light on what drives different types of migraines, and add weight to the idea that it is a neurovascular disorder.

Though they are incredibly common and affect more than a billion people around the world, scientists still don't know exactly what causes migraines, a form of headache that can include severe throbbing and pain, and often visual disturbances known as auras. Research has shown that genetic factors can contribute to migraine risk, but questions remain over how they influence the occurrence either of a migraine with aura or a migraine without aura, the two main subtypes of migraine.

The study was carried out by research groups from Europe, Australia and the US and involved genetic data from more than 873,000 participants, with 102,000 of those suffering from migraines. The scientists conducted a genome-wide association study on these patients, on the hunt for genetic variants that were first of all common in those who had migraines, but could also differentiate the risk of one subtype over the other.

Pinpointing 123 regions of the genome that were connected to the risk of migraine, which tripled the amount known prior to the study, the scientists found that both subtypes shared certain risk factors, but some appeared relevant to one subtype only. More specifically, three risk variants were seemingly linked to migraine with aura, and two were linked to migraine without aura.

“In addition to implicating tens of new regions of the genome for more targeted investigation, our study provides the first meaningful opportunity to evaluate shared and distinct genetic components in the two main migraine subtypes”, said the first author of the study, Heidi Hautakangas from the University of Helsinki.

The scientists say the analysis further indicates that migraines are driven by a combination of neuronal and vascular genetic risk factors, in turn strengthening the idea that it is a neurovascular condition related to blood flow in the brain. Interestingly, two of the 123 newly identified genetic regions contain genes already targeted by new migraine drugs. One region, called CALCA/CALCB, which is implicated in migraine attacks, can be blocked by a recently developed inhibitor drug, while another, which covers the HTR1F gene, is also the target of cutting-edge migraine medications.

“These two new associations near genes that are already targeted by effective migraine drugs suggest that there could be other potential drug targets among the new genomic regions, and provide a clear rationale for future genetic studies with even larger sample sizes,” said Dr. Matti Pirinen from the University of Finland, who led the study.

The research was published in the journal Nature Genetics

Source: University of Helsinki

3 comments
3 comments
Karmudjun
Great article Nick. Unfortunately this does little for the sufferers other than establishing a genomic basis for their headaches. Targeting these subtypes in vivo will take the same trial and error until we have safe, proven interventions in the development and progression of migraines due to expressed genes (and proteins). Great news for scientist, validation for patients, but no breakthroughs in therapy.
drBill
Mr. Curmudgeon,,,ah!, my bad... Karmudjun has captured the essence of the article imo as well. Indeed, it leads me to ask if any of the previous 5 years of New Atlas' reports have ever been tracked to see if any have come to success. Not enough time? How about looking back 10 years, 20 years? Don't know that NA has been around long enough, and there's still value to noting the advances in theory, but I would like to know that *something* had borne fruit.
Even my own researches in a variety of areas have only faded away, rather than make a real difference, so I'm not picking lint here. Just like to know which promising start has been continued to saved people, enhanced lives.
Not to sharpen the point and destroy the pencil... I'd like an occasional follow-up report that showed a good idea become a useful product.
Neil
After a major untreated head injury in 1987 I had migraines that sometimes lasted three weeks on end, also I couldn't sleep at all. I went to a NUCCA specialist and after a very long medical history and pain survey. The specialist said I'm sure i can help you and after eleven treatments I have hardly had a headache in 35 years. My head hurts sometimes and I need life long visits to the NUCCA specialist for pain management by adjusting the top vertebrae under your skull. I also suffered severe sleep apnea which after years of treatment was improved greatly after treatment.