Genetics: The Holy Grail of Migraine Research

“without Excalibur the Grail cannot be discovered” - Glenn Cooper, The Resurrection Monitor
June 26, 2016
Jim Carleton

In the end, it may be applied funding in genetics that discovers the cure or prevention that will end migraine disease. I would submit to you the “cure” or “grail” in the search for the ultimate root cause for this affliction may well be found in genetics. Our Excalibur is the science of genetics applied to migraine disease. With the answers found here we shall dispatch this affliction in all its variations, as science has done with other diseases now nearly forgotten. What a blessing bestowed on the human race to be able to say “I remember when migraines…

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We do have a long way to go. Migraine disease, overlooked for decades is finally garnering some attention. With that attention comes funding. With funding comes research, and hopefully results. Speaking of results here are some current examples of genetic research that have the potential to change the face of migraine treatment in the future.

Published in the most recent edition of Nature Genetics an international group of researchers isolated 38 genetic variants that could cause migraine, 28 of them completely new. This research is the major finding of the genetic causes of migraine disease conducted to date. It is nothing short of astonishing.

Owing to the large sample this study (375,000 individuals), researchers performed a meta-analysis that identified 38 genetic variants associated with migraine, 28 of which had not been seen before, and twelve were identified in several previous works. The impact of this study lies in its ability to reopen the question on whether migraine disease is neuronal or vascular. Or, otherwise put, are its origins in the nervous system or circulatory system? In this study, the majority of the genes now found in common migraine regulate the vascular system. The most severe and rare forms apparently do damage primarily in the brain. Importantly, for the first time, the study found that the genes that cause common migraine and those predisposing the rarest forms of this disease are unique and different. This study will help to better comprehend the origin of migraine in the long term, but will be useful in the short term, allowing more personalized treatments appropriate to the patient.

Also this year, pioneering work in the in area of genetics and Familial Hemiplegic Migraine by Dr. Lyn Griffiths, funded through the Association of Migraine Disorders, has been completed. It will soon be published. Instead of having to order many radiologic and blood tests to rule out many other diagnoses, Dr Griffiths developed a single, quick, cheap, reliable genetic test. This test may be the first clinically relevant measure to identify a migraine sufferer. Her two-fold results are extraordinary. 

Let us hope these wonderful results continue. And the cure for migraine is snatched from the realm of myth.