Gene links migraine and sleep disturbance

Most people with migraines know that migraines run in families. If you have migraines, chances are you have a parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, cousins, or children who also have migraines:

  • When one parent has migraines, about half of their children will get migraines
  • If both parents have migraines, about three of every four children will get migraines

Because of this strong family link, researchers have investigated genes that might be shared between those with migraines that might offer clues about what causes migraine.

Dr. Brennan from the University of California–Los Angeles and colleagues recently released some fascinating new research revealing new genetic mutations in people with migraines and a sleep disorder, published this month in the journal Science Translational Medicine1. Two families with a strong history of migraines were studied. In addition to migraines running in their families, they also shared a sleep disorder called, advanced sleep phase syndrome. This syndrome causes people to be “early to bed, early to rise,” often going to bed by 8 PM and getting up around 5 AM. The researchers identified a common mutation linked with both the occurrence of migraine and the sleep disturbance in these families. The mutation involved the casein kinase I δ gene. This gene is important for adding phosphorus to a number of proteins and helps regulate cell growth and survival. To see if this gene might indeed be linked with migraine symptoms, experiments were conducted on mice. When mice were bred with this same mutation, they were found to have changes in their brain, like cortical spreading depression, that are also seen in humans with migraine.

This research offers new insights into both the mechanisms of migraine, links between migraine and sleep disturbance, and possible targets for future migraine therapies.

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