Study Of 80,000 Migraine Sufferers Finds Commonalities, Possibly Leading To Potential New Treatments


New possibilities for treating debilitating migraines have emerged following research breakthroughs. Migraines afflict approximately one in five women, one in 16 men, and one in 11 children, with women experiencing attacks three times more frequently.

A recent international study on the genetics of migraines has provided valuable insights into the biological mechanisms triggering these headaches.

The research, led by deCODE Genetics in Iceland and involving an analysis of genetic data from over 1.3 million participants, with 800,000 having a history of migraines, aims to pave the way for innovative treatments. Specifically, scientists focused on identifying sequence variants associated with the two primary migraine subtypes: migraine with aura and migraine without aura.

The findings shed light on several genes that influence one subtype of migraine more significantly than the other. This discovery points toward new biological pathways that could serve as targets for developing therapeutic interventions.

While recent strides have been made in understanding the genetics and biology underlying migraines, and new treatments have been effective for many sufferers, there remains a gap in addressing all migraine types.

Published in the Nature Genetics journal, the study found associations with 44 variants, 12 previously unidentified ones. Notably, a rare variant linked to the KCNK5 gene demonstrated substantial protection against severe migraines and brain aneurysms. This association raises the possibility of a shared pathway between the two conditions or suggests that certain instances of early brain aneurysms might be misclassified as migraines.

“Four novel migraine-with-aura associations were revealed and 13 variants associated primarily with migraine without aura. Of particular interest were three rare variants with large effects pointing to distinct pathologies underlying different types of migraine,” explained Professor Kari Stefansson.

“Thus, a rare frameshift variant in the PRRT2 gene confers a large risk of migraine with aura and with another brain disease, epilepsy, but not of migraine without aura,” he adds.

In the SCN11A gene, recognized for its role in pain sensation, scientists identified several rare loss-of-function variants associated with protective effects against migraines. Additionally, a common missense variants in the same gene was linked to a modest risk of migraines.

“What makes our study unique is that it includes large datasets from sequenced individuals enabling detection of rare variants protecting against migraine, potentially opening an avenue for development of novel drug targets,” said the Professor, and CEO of deCODE genetics.

This research holds promise for refining our understanding of migraine genetics and potentially opening avenues for personalized treatments. By pinpointing specific genetic factors associated with protection or risk, the study lays the groundwork for developing more targeted and effective therapeutic approaches.

This progress is particularly significant given that existing treatments do not universally address all types of migraines, leaving room for innovation and the improvement of outcomes for migraine sufferers.