Discovery of Migraine Genes Could Pave the Way for a Cure

It is estimated that approximately 14% of adults are affected by migraine headaches, characterized by intense pain either at the front or at one side of the head. Migraines can be very debilitating and often cause an oversensitivity to light and noise. These types of headache have been difficult to study, because patients are typically healthy between migraine episodes.

Recent research has offered new hope for the possibility of a cure. Scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute have identified gene variations that increase an individual's susceptibility to migraines.

The research team studied DNA samples from over 100,000 people, comparing those with migraine to healthy patients. They were able to find five different regions of DNA where the variations can be present in migraine sufferers. They said that their findings could "open new doors" to understanding the cause and perhaps discovering a cure.

In their report, which was part of the International Headache Genetics Consortium, the scientists hypothesized that the migraine genes are interconnected. In addition, they wrote that the genes could be harming the chemistry of brain cells, which could explain some migraine symptoms.

Prior to this study, seven other DNA regions were discovered to be connected to the risk of migraine, including research that found gene mutations linked to migraine as well as sleep disorders. With a total of 12 regions to study, future research may be able to focus on a cure. In an article for BBC News, researcher Dr. Padhraig Gromley said the new discoveries were "very important to informing the direction of research." However, he indicated that a cure, if one is indeed possible, would be "many years down the line."

In the meantime, chiropractic treatment is a proven way to alleviate migraine without the use of drugs. One study found that chiropractic treatments reduced migraine pain by an average of 68%, while another demonstrated a 90% reduction in migraine frequency for chiropractic patients . Other research focused on identifying which types of treatments performed by chiropractors were most effective for headache, finding that spinal adjustments and massage worked best for chronic migraine.


Freilinger T, Anttila V, et al. Genome-wide association analysis identifies susceptibility loci for migraine without aura. Nature Genetics 2012; 44(7): 777-782. doi: 10.1038/ng.2307.

(2013, June 24). Migraine study "opens door" to research into a cure. BBC News. Retrieved from