While over a billion people suffer from migraines, there is not much knowledge about what causes them or how they can be treated. This uncertainty led to a study in which researchers from Europe, Australia, and America all worked together to find how genetics might play a role in migraines. In this study data from over 800,000 individuals, around 100,000 of which had migraines, was collected, which led to the discovery of tons of new genetic risk factors. While it is understood that the recurrence of migraines in certain individuals is very likely due to genetics, it is unclear if the different types of migraines have the same genetic background such as migraines with aura vs. without aura. To test this, the International Headache Genetics Consortium acquired data on genetics in order to hold a “Genome-wide association study” to find specific genetic mutations commonly in migraines with aura and/or migraines without aura. The results found suggested that there are both genetic risk factors shared by the two main types of migraines, as well as some specific to each. The results also backed the belief that migraines are a neurovascular disorder by showing that neuronal and vascular genetic factors contribute to them.
As we are learning in AP Biology class, the genome is a person’s complete set of DNA. A person’s genetic risk factors are passed down from their parents through their genes, and while all humans have genes, everyone has slightly different variations of them inherited from their parents. Humans typically receive 23 of their 46 chromosomes from each parent, as the two haploid sets of chromosomes join to make a diploid set. This diploid set is the human’s genome, and holds the coding for genetic risk factors, such as the ones that contribute to migraines in some individuals.
So many people are living susceptible to migraines with little ways to treat them, however with the new discoveries about what genetic causes may lead to migraines there is more hope for treatments in the future. One specific medication that has recently been developed is a CGRP inhibitor which prevents “calcitonin gene-related peptide”, which is a molecule playing a large role in the occurrence of migraines. Dr. Matti Pirinen from the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, University of Helsinki, commented on his optimism for finding “other potential drug targets among the new genomic regions” as well as the ability to learn even more about the issue through larger studies. Despite little known information about migraines causes and treatments in the past, recent studies offer a brighter future to finding out why some people are so susceptible to them, as well as new ways to provide relief for those who suffer from migraines.