BYU chemistry professor Emily Bates has discovered the genetic cause for migraine headaches. The study is the first demonstration of a genetic cause for the common migraine and is an important step in the search for a cure.
"I had migraines really frequently and severely. I would lose my vision, vomit uncontrollably - it would wipe out an entire day," Bates said.
She decided then as a high school student that she was going to work on migraines, that she was going to figure them out and help find a cure.
After earning a Ph.D. in genetics from Harvard, Bates did post-doctoral research with a team of geneticists led by Louis Ptacek at UC San Francisco's medical school.
This gene hunting party worked with two families that appeared to have a dominantly inherited form of the affliction.
To test whether this was a cause or a coincidence, Bates designed an experiment to determine whether the same genetic trait led to migraine symptoms in mice.
The researchers observed this heightened sensitivity in the migraine mice in very subtle ways - from the warmth of a tiny light and the pressure of a single hair-like filament.
The findings are set to be published in Science Translational Medicine.