Migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world, and 12% of people suffer from migraines. Given this information, it’s should come as no surprise that DNA could play a critical role in causing a migraine headache. A research team, led together by Biomedical Innovation associate professor Dale Nyholt and QUT’s Institute of Health, discovered a grouping of 44 DNA variants associated with people’s risk of migraine—a link between DNA and migraine. This is a discovery that could potentially help improve migraine treatment.
This study, published in Nature Genetics, also linked to poor blood vessel function, revealing vascular dysfunction, which is a disorder where people’s blood vessels operate poorly and patients experience impaired blood flow, as being the main instrument underlying migraine instead of brain dysfunction with secondary vascular changes. This research team’s discovery not only shows that certain DNA variants could be to blame for migraines, but also opens the doors to better understanding these DNA variants to help identify and improve treatment for this widespread disorder.
Before making their discovery, these doctors and scientists compared eight million DNA variants of 60,000 migraineurs to 316,000 control patients taken from 22 different genomic studies to gain a clearer understanding of what specific variations in genetics trigger migraines. While no one knows the exact causes of migraines, Dr. Nyholt said twin and family studies show that there is a significant genetic component to migraine. With their study, they were looking to see if a specific DNA variant was more commonly found in migraine cases than in controlled groups, suggesting a link between DNA and migraine. This provided them with biological insight which they could then look to see if they can target the specific pathway and then provide a better treatment option.
Dr. Nyholt continued that if a certain gene is in fact involved, then targeting pharmaceutical drugs to ease migraines could be a possible solution. He believes one key to identifying and treating migraines is more and better pharmaceuticals, and that the only way that’s going to happen is to learn more about the biology and then repurpose existing pharmaceuticals and produce new ones.
So what does this mean for you?
Well if you’re someone currently suffering from chronic migraines, this biological advance means you’re now one step closer to receiving more effective treatment for your troublesome medical condition. While developing new medicinal drugs isn’t going to happen in one day or even in one year, developers have to know where to start before they can begin developing them. If you want to find out if you have any specific genes that could be associated with your migraine pain, you can ask your doctor to run a DNA test on you.
But DNA isn’t the only contributing factor to migraines. There are numerous other factors, including light sensitivity, that could be triggering your migraine attacks. The best way to help you and your doctor know what triggers and patterns you’re experiencing so he or she can recommend the most appropriate treatment is keeping a migraine journal or tracking your migraine triggers and patterns via a migraine tracking app.