Migraine headaches can be extremely painful and debilitating. A study that was published in Nature Genetics found new genetic variants that are associated with migraine headaches. There is potential that this finding could be a first step toward developing new treatments for migraines.
Migraines can cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, which usually occurs on one side of the head. The pain can cause nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. The pain is disabling and can last for hours or days.
Some migraines come with warning symptoms, like an aura, flashes of light, or tingling on one side of the face. The current treatment for migraines involved pain-relieving medications and preventative medications.
Scientists led by researchers at Harvard and the Broad Institute were involved in this study. They preformed a meta-analysis that gathered 22 different genome-wide association studies and also included data from more than 375,000 individuals from around the world.
A total of approximately 173,000 of those individuals are customers of 23andMe who consented to the research. Other data was collected by the International Headache Genetics Consortium, which included contributions from researchers in the UK, Iceland, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, and Estonia.
The researchers identified 44 genetic variants that are associated with migraine headaches. Those 44 genetic variants are located in 38 genes or gene regions, many of which are involved in regulating vascular tissue and soft muscle tissue like that found inside the blood vessel walls. Of the genetic variants associated with migraines, 28 were identified for the very first time.
There is a subtype of migraines that cause warning symptoms before the migraine itself occurs. Those symptoms can include blind spots in a person’s vision, seeing bright lights, or seeing auras or other patterns. The researchers were not able to detect any genetic associations that differentiates the type of migraine that comes with warning symptoms from the type of migraine that does not have warning symptoms.
Does your family include several people who get migraine headaches? The study discovered some genetics that relate to migraines. It is unclear if those genetic variants are ones that can be passed down from one generation to the next. What the study shows is that there is new data that could, potentially, result in new treatments for migraine headaches in the future.
Image by Kizzzbeth on Flickr.
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