Genes Linked to Migraines Discovered

Genetic variations LRP1, PRDM16, and TRPM8 associated with migraines

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) For migraine sufferers, the sudden debilitating onset can be excruciating yet unexplained. However researchers have discovered a genetic link that might begin to explain why.

For the first time investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital have identified three genes tied to migraines, including one that is exclusive to women. Migraines affect women up to four times more often than men. About 20 percent of the population suffers from migraines.

"There is currently no known cure for migraines."

Genetic data was analyzed from more than 23,000 women participating in the Women’s Genome Health Study. More than 5,000 of the women suffered from migraines, severe headaches often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound.

Researchers identified genetic variations including LRP1, PRDM16, and TRPM8, the latter which is linked to migraines only in women, which helps to explain why women suffer from migraines considerably more often than men. TRPM8 and PRDM16 were specific to migraines.

TRPM8 has a role in sensitivity to cold temperatures and pain while LRP1 is expressed throughout the body. In the nervous system, and has been shown to interact with other proteins that modulate transmission of signals between neurons. The potential connection between PRDM16 and migraine heachaches remains unknown.

Researchers said additional studies will be needed to understand exactly how each gene contributes to cause migraines.

The research was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the National Cancer Institute. Further support for part of the research came from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, the Leducq Foundation, and Amgen.

The research was published Sunday in the online journal Nature Genetics.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 13, 2011
Last Updated:
June 14, 2011