Blood proteins may be a factor
- Migraines cause intense discomfort and can be difficult to manage. Treatment options focus on prevention, avoidance of triggers, and symptom management.
- A recent study found that specific blood proteins can influence or even cause migraine.
- This research could pave the way for new treatment options for migraine sufferers.
Migraines can cause pain and their onset can be unpredictable.
Although genetics likely plays a role in the development of migraine, more research needs to be done to understand the specific genetic causes of these headaches.
Researchers say this information could lead to the development of new treatment options for migraine sufferers.
Migraine affects approximately
Sometimes people have migraine triggers, so prevention can focus on avoiding specific triggers. Certain medications can help prevent migraine attacks. Additional treatments focus on managing symptoms.
Who has a migraine and why is a bit complex. However, genetics likely plays a role.
Dr. Jacob Wesley Ulm, a genetics specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told Medical News Today:
“[The] the genetic contribution to migraine is what we call in the field “polygenic” and “multifactorial” – that is, it is filtered through a very complex and difficult to disentangle amalgam of numerous genes (potentially tens or even hundreds) impacted by other modulators such as sleep, diet, circulation, exercise and other factors.
Chris Eijsbout, PhD, a specialist in genomic medicine from the University of Oxford and chief scientific officer of retailer Mable, offered MNT a deeper insight into the genetics behind migraine:
“Migraine [is] very hereditary. While around 15-20% of people suffer from migraine at some point in their life, there is around a 50% chance that the child of a couple who has a parent with migraine will inherit the condition. Large-scale studies over the past 5 to 10 years have compared the DNA of people with and without migraine, revealing hundreds of sites in the genome that contribute to the risk of developing migraine. We also know that these sites tend to be in genes that are characteristically expressed in cardiovascular and nervous tissues. So there is genetic evidence that migraine is a neurovascular disorder.
One area of focus in migraine research is understanding the cause of this condition and how to implement this knowledge into effective treatment options.
Proteins circulate in the blood and these markers can indicate certain disorders.
Sometimes these blood proteins and their levels can cause or be caused by specific conditions.
Researchers in the new study have identified several proteins that may cause migraines. Specifically, they identified that elevated levels of two proteins, DKK1 and PDGFB, could cause the disease. In comparison, lower levels of three other proteins can also cause migraines.
Dale Nyholt, study author and professor in the School of Biomedical Sciences at Queensland University of Technology in Australia, noted the highlights of the research at MNT:
By leveraging the power of large genetic studies of migraine risk and blood protein levels, we were able to detect an association between migraine risk and 58 proteins. Furthermore, we were able to show that five of these proteins have a causal effect on migraine. Thus, these proteins are promising targets, for example by modifying their levels, for the treatment of migraine.
He noted that the data collected from this study could help identify migraine risk, diagnose the condition, and possibly open the door to more specific migraine treatments.
Ulm noted two key takeaways from the study data:
“(1) we are getting closer to a kind of molecular ‘fingerprint’, potentially verifiable by blood tests or other diagnostic studies, for people at increased risk of migraine, and (2) just as important , we may also have a window into a new molecular target for therapeutic drugs based on the complex genetic studies reported.
He also offered additional insight into how the study authors were able to arrive at the conclusions they did:
“The researchers were able to discern that a certain assembly of blood proteins, with a fingerprint based on elevations or reductions of particular groups of proteins examined, tended to be correlated to a remarkable degree with an increased or decreased risk of migraine. in an individual. .”
The study provided valuable information, but also had several limitations.
First, the researchers primarily collected data from European populations, so the findings might not be as applicable to other groups.
Due to the nature of blood proteins, results “may not accurately reflect tissue-specific migraine-associated proteins.”
The researchers also noted limitations based on the methods they used. They noted that further research would be helpful to confirm the results and better understand aspects of the data.
The information from this study may open up other migraine treatment options specifically targeting blood proteins and their involved mechanisms. Ulm noted that the mechanism of the DKK1 protein could be of particular interest for the development of treatments.
He explained to MNT:
“The specific high protein of interest, DKK1, and the cellular pathway it affects, known as Wnt, are both very well known in cell biology and pharmacology circles. There could therefore be significant potential both in the development of new drugs and in the application of existing drugs, for example by reducing levels of DKK1 (or activating the Wnt pathway, which is suppressed by DKK1) to introduce better and more specific anti-migraine drugs.
Ultimately, experts say the study gives hope that better migraine treatments may soon be in place.