Many sufferers of migraines have long believed environmental factors like heavy weather and lighting can trigger an attack but new research from the US has identified a genetic link, with women more susceptible than men.
Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School have discovered a link between three genes among migraine sufferers.
The team analysed genetic data from 23, 230 women who are taking part in the Women's Genome Health Study. More than 5,000 admitted to suffering with migraines. The findings were replicated in two further studies in Europe. The three genes discovered to have a link were TRPM8, LRP1 and PRDM16. The first is linked with sensitivity to pain and cold while the second is related to how signals are transferred between neurons. The significance of the third has not bee discovered yet.
Having inherited just one of these genes, the scientists discovered, is enough in to increase the risk of migraine by between 10 and 15%.
Writing online in the British journal Nature Genetics, the team said women are 3 to 4 times more likely to suffer from migraines.
While migraine remains incompletely understood and its underlying causes difficult to pin down, identifying these three genetic variants helps shed light on the biological roots for this common and debilitating condition," said Dr. Daniel Chasman, lead author of the study and an Assistant Professor in the Division of Preventive Medicine at BWH and Harvard Medical School.
Co-lead author Dr. Markus Schurks, an Instructor of Medicine in the Division of Preventive Medicine at BWH, added, "We are very encouraged with the findings of this study and how they lend to advancement in understanding the causes of migraine, but to fully understand the precise contribution of all three genes will require more research."
Up to twenty percent of the population suffers from migraines. Scientists describe it as a brain disorder, characterised by neurons responding abnormally to stimuli, hence the link with a gene affected by cold and pain and a second linked with neuron activity. It is now common belief that propensity to migraine is inherited, a theory backed up by this research.
Top Image Credit: © Fred Goldstein