It's also unknown what, in people with a genetic susceptibility, might trigger the headache, he said.
About 26 percent of the migraine sufferers in the study had the variant, while 18 percent to 20 percent of people who didn't have the migraines had it. Though significant, migraines are a complex condition, and many other genes and variants are likely involved.
"What it means is there are many, many more genes that predispose us to migraines," Palotie said. "This one is just uncovering the tip of the iceberg."
About 17 percent of women and 8 percent of men get migraines, according to background information in the article.
Although researchers have in the past described genetic mutations that cause rare forms of migraine, this is one of the first genetic risk factors linked to more common forms of migraines, according to researchers.
Dr. Kate Henry, an associate professor of neurology at New York University Langone Medical, called the findings important in that they uncovered information about the genetics of the most common types of migraines.
"The belief is that about 70 to 80 percent of the risk for migraines is genetic, mainly because we know people with migraine often have people in their families with migraine," Henry said. "But there was never a real clear understanding of what the specific genetics were."
The hope is that a better understanding of the genetics could open the door to safe and more effective treatments, Henry said. Medications such as triptans work for many migraine sufferers, but not all, and they can have side effects. Triptans can also carry added risks for people with cardiovascular disease or risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
About 12 percent to 18 percent of those with migraines have migraine with aura, which can include visual disturbances before the headache starts, and other warning signs that a migraine is immin
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