AsianScientist (Jun. 30, 2016) – The world’s largest study of migraines has discovered dozens of new genetic regions linked to their onset, revealing new insights into what causes these debilitating headaches.
The international study, published in Nature Genetics and co-led by Queensland University of Technology’s Associate Professor Dale Nyholt, will help to greatly advance the biological understanding of what causes migraines.
“Typically throbbing in nature and accompanied by aura, nausea, vomiting, light and noise sensitivity, migraine is the third most common disease worldwide. It is a difficult condition to study because between episodes the patient is basically healthy, so it’s extremely hard to uncover biological or biochemical clues,” Nyholt said.
The research team compared eight million DNA variants between 60,000 migraine patients and 316,000 controls drawn from 22 different genomic studies. They identified 44 independent DNA variants robustly associated with migraine risk, which mapped to 38 distinct genes (or genomic loci), including 28 not previously reported.
Rather than migraine being the result of brain dysfunction with secondary vascular changes, the findings indicated that vascular dysfunction, or poor blood vessel function, is a primary mechanism underlying migraine, according to Nyholt.
“There is a long-running debate about whether migraine is a disease of vascular dysfunction, or a result of brain dysfunction with secondary vascular changes,” he said. “Hence, our results are important, given they provide strong genomic support for vascular dysfunction as a primary mechanism underlying migraine.”
Although it remains likely that neurogenic mechanisms are also involved in migraine, Nyholt said that the vascular finding is consistent with known comorbidities and previously-reported shared genetic risk among migraine, stroke and cardiovascular diseases.
The article can be found at: Gormley et al. (2016) Meta-Analysis of 375,000 Individuals Identifies 38 Susceptibility Loci for Migraine.
Source: Queensland University of Technology; Photo: Shutterstock.
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