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Migraine Headaches Linked To Genetics

June 13, 2011

According to a new study, scientists have uncovered a trio of genes tied to migraine headaches, including one in which the link is exclusive to women.

Migraines are acutely debilitating headaches that up to 20 percent of the population suffer from.

Scientists say the condition is a brain disorder in which neurons, or brain cells, respond abnormally to stimuli.

Markus Shuerks of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston coordinated genomes in 23,230 women, 122 of whom suffered from migraines.

The study, which is the largest to date of its kind, found variations in three genes that showed up more frequently in migraine patients.

Two of them were specific to migraines, as opposed to other kinds of headaches.

One gene, TRPM8, was linked to migraines only in women.  Earlier studies showed that the same gene contains the genetic “blueprint” for a pain sensor.

The third suspect gene, LRP1, is involved in sensing the external world and in chemical pathways inside the brain.

“The brain of a person with migraine responds differently to certain stimuli, their nerve cells ‘talk’ differently to each other,” Shuerks told AFP an email.

“Many neurotransmitters are involved in this cross-talk and some seem to have a special role in migraines. LRP1 interacts with some of these neurotransmitter pathways and may thus modulate nerve responses that promote or suppress migraine attacks.”

The findings were replicated in two smaller population-based studies, one in the Netherlands and the other in Germany.

The study was published in the British journal Nature Genetics.

Migraine sufferers are more than twice as likely to develop life-threatening blood clots.

Studies have found that men who suffer them are 25 percent more likely to have cardiac problems, including heart attacks.

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