3/13/07 Podcast: A New Discovery About the Cause of Migraine

  • The transcript of this podcast is below. If you prefer to listen to it, you can do so easily from the MigraineCast Web site.

    Welcome to MigraineCast, the weekly podcast brought to you by MyMigraineConnection.com and the HealthCentral Network. An item in the news brings to mind one of the most commonly asked questions about Migraine disease -- "What causes it?" A brief mention needs to be made about the difference between cause and triggers. Cause is the root biological cause of the disease. Triggers are physical stimuli that bring on a Migraine when we encounter them.

    Over the years, there have been many theories about the cause of Migraines. Thousands of years ago, around 1000 BC, it was believed that evil spirits caused Migraines that they could be cured by a practice called trepanning -- drilling holes in their skulls to release the evil spirits. Thankfully, theories progressed from there. For many years, Migraines were thought to be caused by constriction and dilation, narrowing and widening, of blood vessels in the brain. With the advent of more sophisticated imaging equipment, scientists were able to observe the brain during a Migraine attack, and a new theory replaced the vascular theory. Researchers saw that Migraineurs have overactive neruons in our brains, and before there were are any changes to the blood vessels, those neurons fire in a wave across the brain, starting a chain reaction that includes that vasoconstriction and dilation. Thus, we discovered that the changes in the blood vessels were a symptom of a Migraine attack, not the cause.
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    Now, new research from the University of Iowa, may show that the overly excitable neurons are also a symptom, not the cause of Migraine disease. It has already been established that a calcitonin gene-related peptide, abbreviated CGRP plays a key role in the pathogenesis or cause of Migraine. Researers at the University of Iowa recently demonstrated that a protein called RAMP1 appears to appears to "turn up the volume" of a nerve cell receptor's response to CGRP.

    Lead researcher, Dr. Andrew Russo said the "study suggests that people who get migraines may have higher levels of RAMP1 than people who don't get migraines." He went on to comment that "There is clearly a genetic difference between people who get migraines and those who do not, and we think that difference could be RAMP1. Our studies provide a reason to look for variations in the DNA that encodes RAMP1 in humans."

    This research has multiple implications. First, it provides another piece of the puzzle regarding genetics and Migraines. It also may point to a cause of Migraine disease once again beyond what we'd alreay learned. Such research has value beyond simply the intellectual aspects. It may well provide keys to research and development of newer and better treatments for Migraine disease and perhaps, eventually, the much desired and sought-after cure. It should be noted, with thanks, that this research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

  • After living with Migraine disease for over 40 years, I've come to realize that learning about Migraine disease can allow us to work with our doctors as treatment partners to gain control over this disease rather than the disease controlling us. Please join us at MMC for information and support or for a transcript of this podcast. From MMC.com and the HCN, this is Teri Robert reminding you that you can live well with Migraine disease and headaches.
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    Zhongming Zhang, Christina S. Winborn, Blanca Marquez de Prado, and Andrew F. Russo. "Sensitization of Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide Receptors by Receptor Activity-Modifying Protein-1 in the Trigeminal Ganglion." The Journal of Neuroscience. 27(10):2693–2703.

    Press Release: "Scientists identify protein that may promote migraines." University of Iowa. March 8, 2007.

Published On: March 13, 2007