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Researchers uncover genetic clues to migraine

4 October 2010
Appeared in BioNews 578

International researchers have identified a genetic mutation found in some migraine sufferers, which may be responsible for increased pain sensitivity in the brain and a higher likelihood of a migraine being triggered. The finding could allow new treatments to be developed that target the pain associated with migraines.

'It is a once in a generation find that could one day lead to treatments that could prevent migraines', said Dr Zameel Cader, consultant neurologist at the Medical Research Council Functional Genomics Unit at the University of Oxford, who was involved in the study. 'It could potentially lead to a treatment for pain in general. That could impact everybody'.

The researchers screened the DNA of 110 individuals known to experience migraines, and their families. A mutation was found in the TRESK gene, which regulates the sensitivity of a subset of pain nerves in the brain. This mutations resulted in defective TRESK, which caused an increase in the sensitivity of these pain nerves. The authors of the study suggest the findings may explain why members of the same family suffer from migraines, which are believed can be hereditary.

'What we've found is that migraines seem to depend on how excitable our nerves are in specific parts of the brain', said Dr Cader. 'Finding the key player which controls this excitability will give us a real opportunity to find a new way to fight migraines and improve the quality of life for those suffering'.

Migraines can last up to three days and often result in increased sensitivity to sound, touch and light. Approximately 18 percent of women and eight percent of men in the UK suffer from migraines - a condition the World Health Organisation considers among the leading global causes of disability. The study was published in the journal Nature Medicine.

A dominant-negative mutation in the TRESK potassium channel is linked to familial migraine with aura
Nature Medicine |  26 September 2010
Migraine cause ‘identified’ as genetic defect
BBC News |  27 September 2010
Scientists discover how to ‘switch off’ pain of migraine
The Telegraph |  26 October 2010
Scientists find migraine link gene
Press Association |  27 September 2010
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