Three migraine genes found, including one only in women

A massive study of human genes has uncovered three that are directly linked to the mysterious migraine headache, including one gene found exclusively in women.
“We were surprised and excited to find these associations,” Dr. Markus Schürks of Harvard Medical School told the Star on Wednesday.
“They are two more pieces in a big puzzle, but we can go from here to understand many things.”
Women are hit with excruciating, debilitating migraines up to four times more often than men, but other than being common and hereditary, they are not well understood by science.

Using the genomes of 23,000 women in the Women’s Health Institute study, the Harvard team studied and compared results with more than a dozen scientists from leading institutes in Europe.
It is, explained Schürks, a bit like “looking for a needle in a haystack.” There are at least 330,000 variants, and sometimes up to 2 million, in a single point along a gene.
What they found was a connection to genes responsible for how neuropathic pain forms and for a protein receptor also linked to high cholesterol.
“We understand now that migraine is related to other pain forms, which has been debated by people in the past.”
But because genes do many things in the body, the trick is separating what piece of a gene is connected to a particular function and how that cascades through the system to create a blinding headache.
From here, said Schürks, scientists can further investigate how migraines are connected to glutamate homeostatics, which produce a profound effect on the central nervous system.
Only when science can dissect how genes act at the molecular level, he said, can they work on new therapies for treatment.

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