Largest Genetic Study On Migraine Reveals New Insight About The Condition

First Posted: Jun 27, 2016 09:34 AM EDT

Migraine has been known as the third most common illness in the world. But, the underlying causes of the condition remain to be unclear, until now. A study, known as the largest genetic study of migraine to date, researchers were able to unravel 28 new genetic variants that may cause migraine

According to, the study was carried out by a team of researchers from the International Headache Genetics Consortium, which includes migraine research groups from Australia, Europe, the UK and USA. The study analyzed DNA samples of 375,000 European, American, and Australian participants, with almost 60,000 of them suffering from migraine.

After analyzing the DNA of adults suffering with migraines, it was then compared to the remaining number of adults without migraine. From their analysis, the researchers identified a total of 38 genetic variants associated with migraine, of which 28 had never before been reported.

Closer assessment of the areas in which specific variants were located, the team found showed that many of the genetic variants are inside or around nearby genes that either run the vascular system or have been connected with vascular disease, Medical News Today reported.

This finding, say the authors, supports the idea that migraine attacks are partly driven by abnormalities in blood vessels. The researchers hope their discovery of new migraine-related genetic variants will pave the way for novel treatments.

"These genetic findings are the first concrete step towards developing personalized, evidence-based treatments for this very complex disease. We doctors have known for a long time that migraine patients differ from each other and the drugs that work for some patients are completely inefficient for others, said co-author Prof. John-Anker Zwart from Oslo University Hospital, Norway.

In the future, we hope that this information can be utilized in dividing the patients into different genetic susceptibility groups for clinical drug trials, thus increasing the chances of identifying the best possible treatment for each subgroup."

The Migraine Research Foundation revealed that about 1 in every 4 households in the United States has someone who experiences migraine attacks. Some people just think that migraine is nothing but a case of "bad headache," but this is actually not the case.

Every year, approximately 1.2 million visits to the emergency room in the United States are because of acute migraine attacks. Current treatments for migraine focus on minimizing symptoms of the condition, but they do not work for everyone. And because little is known about what really causes migraine, identifying new treatments or a cure is challenging.

Science Daily reported Professor Aarno Palotie, leader of the International Headache Genetics Consortium saying," We simply can't overstate the importance of international collaboration when studying genetics of complex, common diseases." Palotie, who also works as a Research Director at the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), University of Helsinki, and is an associate member at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

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