The first genetic factor connected to migraine has been identified by Investigators at the International Headache Genetics Consortium.
Researchers looked at genetic data of more than 50,000 people and found new insights into the triggers for migraines attacks, which commonly begin in puberty and but tend to affect people aged between 20 to 45 years of age. Migraine affects approximately one in six women and one in 12 men.
"This is a major stride in migraine science," said David W. Dodick, president of the American Headache Society, and professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, and the director of the Headache Program in Phoenix, Arizona. Underscoring the significance of the findings, Dr. Dodick said, "It is the first study to identify a genetic risk factor for the common subtypes of migraine, and provides some support for the general concept of migraine as a state of brain hyperexcitability. It also supports previous research findings on the potential role of glutamate in migraine , as well novel glutamate modulating drugs that are currently being tested in migraine. Further work may provide insight into the precise molecular mechanism(s) of migraine as well as future targets for novel therapies."
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. It appears that the associated DNA variant regulates levels of glutamate -- a chemical, known as a neurotransmitter, which transports messages between nerve cells in the brain. Prevention of the build up of glutamate at the synapse (space between nerve endings) may provide a promising target for novel therapeutics to ease the burden of the disease, according to Dr. Dodick. Although researchers have in the past described genetic mutations giving rise to rare and extreme forms of migraine, this is the first time a team has identified a genetic variant giving rise to the common forms of the condition.