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Study finds new genes linked to migraine

20 June 2011
Appeared in BioNews 612

Scientists have carried out a large genome-wide association study (GWAS) looking into SNPs potentially associated with migraine and have discovered three new genes that may be associated with the condition.

The researchers compared the DNA of around 9,000 people who experienced migraines with about 32,000 people who did not, based on data collected from three studies, which included the Women's Genome Health Study.

They identified three genetic regions that appeared to be linked to the condition, which were found to be close to three genes called LRP1, PRDM16 and TRPM8. Both TRPM8 and LRP1 are known to be involved in 'neuropathic' pain and communication in neurons respectively.

Migraines are a common neurological disorder, causing severe headaches, nausea and sickness, with people often having visual disturbances, and experiencing sensitivity to sound and light. The World Health Organisation (WHO) includes migraine in its top 20 most debilitating conditions.

Health data suggests that women are more likely to experience migraines, and although the study did find the region close to TRPM8 was strongly associated with migraines in women, the researchers were cautious about its significance.

The study was carried out by Dr Markus Schurks and colleagues at Harvard Medical School in the USA, in conjunction with international collaborators in Europe and Australia. Researchers from the International Headache Genetics Consortium (IHGC) were also involved.

Research published last year in Nature Medicine also linked another gene, the TRESK gene to migraine. The above study was published in the journal Nature Genetics.

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