It comes as no surprise to the one in four women and one in 12 men affected by migraine to learn that it features among the in World Health Organisation’s 20 most disabling lifetime conditions. Migraine on its own accounts for 1.3% of years lost due to disability.
But compared to other common medical problems relatively little research has been done on the cause of migraine and its potential treatments.
Could new migraine research described by Peter Goadsby, a professor of neurology and medical trustee of the Migraine Trust in the UK, as an “exciting new development in understanding migraine” really be the long-awaited answer for millions worldwide?
The research team lead by Louis Ptacek at the University of California, San Francisco has discovered the first gene involved in typical migraines. Working out how the flaw in a gene called casein kinase I delta causes migraines could lead to improved treatments. The gene is also involved in the control of sleep. This may also shed light on that puzzling link familiar to many sufferers between sleeping too much and too little and the onset of a migraine.
The team studied the genetics of two families of migraine sufferers and pinpointed a common genetic flaw.
To make sure that the gene is key to migraines, the team also studied mice carrying the same genetic fault.
Professor Ptácek said: “Obviously, we can’t measure a headache in a mouse but there are other things that go along with a migraine that we can measure.”
The mice with the genetic flaw were also more prone to a pattern of brain waves linked to the flashing lights or other visual problems that can precede a migraine. Migraine drugs appeared to ease the mice’s symptoms, the journal Science Translational Medicine reported.