New Insight into Causes of Migraines

A study out of the University of Helsinki in Finland and published in Nature Genetics, identified almost 30 new genetic risk factors for the common migraine. Many of these risk variants localize inside or close to genes that regulate the vascular system. The results provide further support for the theory that abnormal function of the blood vessels of the brain is an important component in driving migraine attacks. The study was based on DNA samples of 375,000 European, American and Australian participants with nearly 60,000 of them suffering from migraines.

The researchers found 38 independent genomic regions associated with migraines, only ten which had been implicated previously. The study included research groups from Australia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the UK and USA.

“Our consortium is devoted to uncovering the genetic causes of migraine and during the past few years we have been able to identify many risk variants,” said the leader of the International Headache Genetics Consortium. “Yet, in this latest, large-scale study, tens of new genetic risk factors were discovered. Because all of these variants modify the disease risk only slightly, the effect could only be seen when this large amount of samples became available. We simply can’t overstate the importance of international collaboration when studying genetics of complex, common diseases.”

The researchers noticed that some of the genomic areas pinpointed in the study overlapped with known genes and that nine of them had been previously associated with some vascular disease and four others were known to be involved in the regulation of vascular tone, supporting the importance of blood vessels in migraine attacks.

“These genetic findings are the first concrete step towards developing personalized, evidence-based treatments for this very complex disease. We doctors have known for a long time that migraine patients differ from each other and the drugs that work for some patients are completely inefficient for others,” said one researcher.


raziRazi Berry, Founder and Publisher of Naturopathic Doctor News & Review (ndnr.com) and NaturalPath (thenatpath.com), has spent the last decade as a natural medicine advocate and marketing whiz. She has galvanized and supported the naturopathic community, bringing a higher quality of healthcare to millions of North Americans through her publications. A self-proclaimed health-food junkie and mother of two; she loves all things nature, is obsessed with organic gardening, growing fruit trees (not easy in Phoenix), laughing until she snorts, and homeschooling. She is a little bit crunchy and yes, that is her real name.

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