It is well-timed that Migraine Awareness Month 2016 would present us with new, significant research into the relationship between genetics and migraine disease. Heritability of this illness has long been suspected, but difficult to prove by rigorous scientific standards. Add to this the (most necessary) protections afforded human subjects and IRB oversight, and difficulties engaging in this research multiply. Also, the technology surrounding genetics research is a new and emerging one. Adequate funding becomes frosting on the cake. It is a wonder anything can get done at all. Well, quite a bit was accomplished and published last month, two major studies are worthy of a dedicated recap here.
First, and probably best known now,
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. Over time it will have a massive impact on the prevention and treatment of migraine disease. The study findings begin to un-ravel one of the central questions of the etiology of migraine disease: is it vascular or neurological in nature? This study revealed the majority of the genes found in migraine regulate the vascular system. The most severe and rare forms apparently do damage primarily in the brain, part of the central nervous system. Significantly, for the first time, the study found that the genes that cause migraine and those predisposing the most unusual forms of this disease are unique and diverse. We are hopeful that in the near future, as research continues, this will affect both long term and short term treatment planning for migraine disease.
The second research piece released last month was funded by the Association of Migraine Disorders The work is the product of Professor Lyn Griffiths, at the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland Institute of Technology, Australia. Our interest in funding Professor Griffith's work is directly related to AMD's mission; working within the "spectrum" of migraine disorders, and having an international scope.
Professor Griffiths's pioneering research focuses on identifying the genetic underpinnings of Familial Hemiplegic Migraine (FHM) and related mutations. In addition, Professor Griffiths is utilizing Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) a quicker, more cost- effective and inclusive methodology that is proving superior to the traditional methods. To use Professor Griffiths's own words her objectives were two-fold:
1. "To develop and optimize a targeted NGS approach to identify novel mutations associated with severe hemiplegic migraine and migraine related phenotypes."
2. "Utilise this methodology to identify and validate novel mutations for severe migraine related disorders. "
Her work has already attracted international attention, and we look forward to publication in an upcoming issue of Neurology. Again, an example of recent research in the genetics arena that should positively impact both research and treatment for years to come.
For further information on the relationship between migraine disease and genetics investigate the following links:
Familial Hemiplegic Migraines
MHNI Review of Migraines and Causes
NINDS Hope thru Research