In the U.S., more than 30 million people suffer from migraines – with women most commonly affected – and now researchers believe they know why.
Scientists from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston say they’ve uncovered a trio of genes tied to these debilitating headaches, including one that is exclusively linked to women, Agence-France Presse reported.
For the study, researchers put together what is called a genome-wide association study that involved more than 23,000 women – including more than 5,000 migraine sufferers.
According to the National Genome Research Institute, this type of study is “an approach that involves rapidly scanning markers across the complete sets of DNA, or genomes, of many people to find genetic variations associated with a particular disease.”
After analyzing all the data, the researchers found variations in three genes that showed up more frequently in women afflicted by migraines.
Two of the genes – PRDM16 and TRPM8 – were specific to migraines, and in addition, TRPM8 was linked to migraines only in women.
The third 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," Dr. Markus Shuerks of Brigham and Women’s said in 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 study was published Sunday in the British journal Nature Genetics.