The largest genetic analysis of migraine sufferers has linked twelve genetic regions with susceptibility to the condition.
Researchers from the International Headache Genetics Consortium performed a meta-analysis, pooling the results from 29 different genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to analyse a total of more than 23,000 migraine sufferers and 95,000 healthy controls. Twelve genomic regions showed significant association with migraine susceptibility; seven had previously been reported, and five were novel. Over 130 additional regions showed a weaker association.
Migraine is a severe form of headache that affects around 14% of adults, with some experiencing frequent attacks; it is considered the most costly type of neurological disorder and a leading cause of disability, but genetic causes are not well understood. It is hoped that the new genetic insights may help further research into the factors that trigger migraine attacks, which remain poorly understood – partly because there are no observable features of the disease between attacks.
Eight of the genetic regions identified by the study lie within or close to genes known to be involved in neural regulation. Two regions were linked exclusively with a single clinic-based group of migraine sufferers, suggesting they may be involved in susceptibility to severe migraine, and one region was associated only with a disease sub-class (migraine without aura).
Dr Padhraig Gormley, who was involved in study, said: "At a fundamental biological level we really don't know what causes a migraine”, adding that many more genetic susceptibility factors were expected “so there is still a lot of work to do".