New Genetic Mechanism Underlying Migraines Discovered

New Genetic Mechanism Underlying Migraines Discovered

by Dr. Lakshmi Venkataraman on Dec 18 2018 3:01 PM
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  • Genetic mutation that causes migraine by increasing the excitability of the neurons in the brain has been identified
  • Migraines are moderate to severe headaches accompanied by nausea and heightened sensitivity to light and sound; nearly 15 percent of adults in the world suffer from a migraine
  • Although medications offer symptomatic relief, there are no effective ways to treat or prevent migraine headaches currently. This finding could help in developing better drugs to treat this painful condition
Novel type of genetic mutation that can result in migraines has been found in this study conducted by scientists at CNRS, Université Côte d'Azur and Inserm. The finding could pave the way for development of better and more effective migraine treatments. The findings of the study appear in the journal Neuron.


Migraine and Neuronal Hyperexcitability

  • One of the factors responsible for migraines is hyperexcitability of neurons in the brain in addition to others.
  • Normally, the excitability of neurons in the brain is regulated by proteins termed ion channels that can produce current.
  • In this context, a protein termed TRESK protein normally inhibits neuronal excitability and thus, prevents migraine attacks.
  • During the study, the team identified a genetic mutation that splits and inactivates the TRESK protein resulting in the production of another protein namely K2P2.1, which greatly excites neurons leading to migraine attacks
Thus, the findings of the study have identified a new genetic mutation causing neuronal hyperexcitation, leading to migraine headaches. This also explains why migraines tend to be hereditary and run in families.


Scope of Study

The study has identified a possible therapeutic target namely the K2P2.1 protein which can be inhibited by drugs, which in turn would reduce neuronal excitation and prevent migraines. In fact a patent has been filed in this regard.


About Migraine

Migraine is a severe form of a headache associated with other symptoms such as nausea, increased sensitivity to light and sound and tingling in the arms and legs. The headache can last for hours to days and at times the pain can be severe and disabling and keep people away from work.

Migraine is treated by drugs that can either relieve an acute attack or if recurrent attacks occur preventive medications can help from reoccurring. However, available treatments do not offer relief in nearly half the cases, prompting the need to look for better and more effective treatments.

Future Research Opportunities from Current Study

The finding of a new mechanism of genetic mutation where two proteins are produced instead of the usual one protein may open up research opportunities for determining the mechanism of causation of other genetic diseases as well and ways to diagnose them.


In conclusion, the findings of the study have not only paved the way for developing better migraine drugs but also outlining a new mechanism of causation of genetic diseases in general which can be used for further research into genetic diseases and their diagnosis.


  1. Migraine-Associated TRESK Mutations Increase Neuronal Excitability through Alternative Translation Initiation and Inhibition of TREK - (