CUn international team of scientists identified a gene variant that may explain the cause of several common types of migraine. The study, which analyzed genetic data from more than 50,000 people, provides the first information about what might cause some people more susceptible to migraine. The researchers, who published details of the study in the journal Nature Genetics, hope the study will lead to the development of new therapies against the disorder that affects one in six women and one in 12 men.
Migraine is a disorder that causes the release of the nerves and blood vessels in the head of inflammatory chemicals that cause pain. Usually migraine attacks occur once a month, but the frequency can vary from once a year to once a week.
The study, conducted by researchers from 40 scientific institutions worldwide, coordinated by the International Consortium for Genetics Headache Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, England.
“This is the first time we study the genomes of several thousand people to find genetic keys that allow us to understand the common migraine,” said Dr. Aarno Palotie, president of the Consortium. “Studies of this kind are only possible with a large-scale international collaboration. This discovery opens new doors to understanding one of the most common human diseases” he adds.
The researchers compared the genomes of more than 3,000 people with migraine in Finland, Germany and the Netherlands with more than 10,000 people who did not have the disorder and confirmed the results by comparing the genomes of a second group of 3,000 patients with 40,000 healthy people. The scientists found that patients with a particular variant of DNA located between two genes, MTDH/AEG-1 and PGCP, showed a significantly higher risk of having migraine.
This variant, say the authors, appears to regulate the levels of glutamate, a neurotransmitter that carries messages between neurons in the brain. This suggests that an accumulation of glutamate in neuronal connections (synapses) in the brain may play an important role in the onset of a migraine attack.
The prevention of this accumulation of glutamate in synapses could be a promising target for developing new therapies that relieve the disease, the researchers say. The authors emphasize, however, that more research is needed to confirm the results and for more information on the mechanisms that underlie a migraine attack.
According to the World Health Organization, migraine is a neurological disorder more costly to society from lost workdays involved. A migraine attack in an adult can last from few hours to two or three days. The pain may be mild or severe and may be located on one side of welcome or can be produced with keystrokes. The disorder is often accompanied by nausea and intolerance can produce normal levels of light and sound.