New Research Reveals Genetic Clues to Migraine Without Aura
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Just last week we learned about research offering a possible genetic explanation for the prevalence of migraine among women. On Sunday we learned about more research that teaches us valuable information about the genetic underpinnings of migraine attacks. And for the first time, the genes in question are related to migraine without aura, the most common variety of migraine, instead of migraine with aura.

Scientists from across Europe studied more than 11,000 people total for this study, comparing the DNA of patients with migraine without aura against that of people in the general population who do not experience migraine. The researchers identified a total of four genes related to migraine disease. They confirmed research from the US that had previously identified two genetic variations thought to be involved in the attacks of patient with migraine without aura. They also discovered additional genetic variations among patients with migraine without aura.

Not only does this research reinforce the notion that migraine has a strong genetic component, but two of the genetic variations also demonstrated that blood vessels and blood flow are a key part of the migraine attack process.

Focusing on the genetic foundation of migraine disease is important for research purposes. But it is also important in trying to combat stigma associated with invisible, misunderstood illnesses like migraine. Despite all the progress we’ve made in educating the public, too often migraine is thought to be just a headache or caused by an individual’s inability to cope with life’s stressors. The more we find out about the inherited characteristics that make us predisposed to migraine, the more ammunition we have in breaking down falsehoods about our condition.

As if the results of this study aren’t cool enough, another great thing about this research is the team that conducted it. The study was a project of the International Headache Consortium, which is a group of leading headache disorders researchers from Europe and Australia.

view references
Freilinger, Tobias; Anttila, Verneri; de Vries, Boukje. “Genome-wide association analysis identifies susceptibility loci for migraine without aura.” Nature Genetics, June 10, 2012. Available at: http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ng.2307.html. Accessed June 2012.
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