Genetic cause of migraine found

Published today in the journal Nature Medicine, the study is led by researchers at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Functional Genomics Unit based at Oxford and their colleagues in Canada.

It has identified a specific gene called TRESK, which was discovered in a family with a history of suffering from migraines, university sources said.
This gene was found to be directly attributable as a cause of migraines and could be a significant result for the one in five women and one in ten men worldwide who suffer from migraines.

The study found that if the TRESK gene does not work properly, it can more easily trigger sensitive pain centres in the brain and cause a severe headache.
The international team used DNA samples from people with common familial migraine to identify the defective gene.

A migraine is a severe, long-lasting headache usually felt as a throbbing pain at the front or on one side of the head.

Some people can have a warning visual disturbance called an aura before the start of the headache, while many people also have symptoms such as nausea and sensitivity to light during the headache itself.

Until now, the genes responsible have been unknown.
The World Health Organisation rates migraine as a leading cause of disability worldwide, and it has been estimated to be the most costly neurological disorder in Europe.
"We have now made a major step forward in our understanding of why people suffer with migraine and how in certain cases, your family can literally give you a headache," said Dr Zameel Cader from the MRC Functional Genomics Unit at Oxford.

"Previous studies have identified parts of our DNA that increase the risk in the general population but have not found genes which can be directly responsible for common migraine...What we've found is that migraines seem to depend on how sensitive our nerves are in the pain centres of the brain," he said.

"The finding should help lead to the key player which controls this excitability and will give us a real opportunity to find a new way to fight migraines and improve the quality of life for those suffering," he said.

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