A world-wide collaboration of researchers has identified the first-ever genetic risk factor associated with common types of migraine. The researchers, who looked at the genetic data of more than 50,000 people, have produced new insights into the triggers for migraines attacks and they hope their research will open the door for novel therapeutics to prevent migraine attacks.
The team found that patients with a particular DNA variant on Chromosome 8 between two genes PGCP and MTDH/AEG-1 have a significantly greater risk for developing migraine. The team also discovered a potential explanation for this link. It appears that the associated DNA variant regulates levels of glutamate a chemical, known as a neurotransmitter, which transports messages between nerve cells in the brain. The results suggest that an accumulation of glutamate in nerve cell junctions (synapses) in the brain may play a key role in the initiation of migraine attacks. Prevention of the build up of glutamate at the synapse may provide a promising target for novel therapeutics to ease the burden of the disease.
Migraine affects approximately one in six women and one in twelve men, and has been estimated to be the most expensive brain disorder to society in the EU and US. A US report measures its economic costs as similar to those of diabetes and WHO lists it as one of the top 20 diseases with years lived with disability (YLDs).
Although researchers have in the past described genetic mutations giving rise to rare and extreme forms of migraine, this is the first time a team has identified a genetic variant giving rise to the common form of the condition.
"This is the first time we have been able to peer into the genomes of many thousands of people and find genetic clues to understand common migraine," said Dr Aarno Palotie, chair of the International Headache Genetics Consortium at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, which spearheaded the study.
|Contact: Don Powell|
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute