Five newly identified genetic regions linked to the onset of migraine could
boost scientists' understanding of what drives the painful headaches,
"This study has greatly advanced our biological insight about the cause of
migraine," Dr Aarno Palotie, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the
United Kingdom, said in an institute news release. Migraine is difficult to
study, he added, because "between episodes the patient is basically healthy, so
it's extremely difficult to uncover biochemical clues".
In their research, Palotie's team pinpointed five genetic regions tied to
migraine. They did so after analysing the results of 29 different genetic
studies, involving more than 100 000 samples from people with and without
Some of the five regions are close to a network of genes that are sensitive
to oxidative stress, a biochemical process that leads to improper functioning of
cells. The researchers believe that many of the genes in regions associated with
migraine are interconnected and may be disrupting the internal regulation of
tissue and cells in the brain, resulting in some of the symptoms of
The researchers also identified another 134 genetic regions that are possibly
associated with migraine susceptibility.
Migraine affects about 14% of adults, and according to the researchers this
was the largest study of migraine genetics to date.
"We would not have made discoveries by studying smaller groups of
individuals," study co-author Dr Gisela Terwindt, of Leiden University Medical
Centre in the Netherlands, said in the news release. Having such a large study
population "means we can tease out the genes that are important suspects and
follow them up in the lab".
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about