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New Discovery on Migraine and Genetics

by Teri Robert, Lead Expert

Scientists have been certain for some time now that Migraine has a genetic component. In recent years, specific genes related to hemiplegic Migraine, a rare form of Migraine, have been located, but genetic links to other types of Migraine have been more elusive.

Now, a world-wide collaboration of researchers has identified the first-ever genetic risk factor associated with common* types of Migraine. The researchers, who looked at the genetic data of more than 50,000 people, have produced new insights into the triggers for Migraines attacks and they hope their research will open the door for novel medications to prevent Migraine attacks.

The team found that patients with a particular DNA variant on Chromosome 8 between two genes – PGCP and MTDH/AEG-1 – have a significantly greater risk for developing Migraine. The team also discovered a potential explanation for this link. It appears that the associated DNA variant regulates levels of glutamate – a neurotransmitter, which transports messages between nerve cells in the brain. The results suggest that an accumulation of glutamate in nerve cell junctions (synapses) in the brain may play a key role in the initiation of Migraine attacks. Prevention of the build up of glutamate at the synapse may provide a promising target for new Migraine treatments.

The study:

The researchers carried out what is known as a genome-wide association study (GWAS) to identify genome variants that could increase susceptibility to Migraine. The team compared the genomes of more than 3,000 people from Finland, Germany and The Netherlands with Migraine with the genomes of more than 10,000 non-Migraineurs, recruited from pre-existing studies, to spot differences that might account for one group's increased susceptibility to Migraine. To confirm their link, the team compared the genomes of a second group of more than 3,000 patients with more than 40,000 apparently healthy people.

Study summary:

This research article is quite complex, and the best summary of this research and its implications comes from the article itself:

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