Migraines rank as one of the top chronic pain conditions globally, impacting up to 20% of adults.
Recent progress in understanding its genetics and biology has led to new treatments that benefit numerous individuals with migraines. However, these treatments aren’t universally effective for all migraine types.
So, an international team of scientists, spearheaded by deCODE Genetics in Iceland, recently conducted a study examining genetic data from over 1.3 million people, including 80,000 individuals who suffer from migraines. This data was generated by sizeable population-based studies from FinnGen and the UK Biobank.
The researchers concentrated on identifying genetic sequence variations linked to the two primary forms of migraines: migraines with aura (commonly known as classical migraine) and migraines without aura.
Their findings emphasize distinct genes that predominantly influence one subtype of migraine over the other. This discovery sheds light on novel biological pathways that could be leveraged for developing new treatments.
The research uncovered links to 44 genetic variants, including 12 previously unidentified ones. Among these, four novel associations were found in migraines with aura, and 13 variants were primarily linked to migraines without aura.
Notably, three rare variants stood out due to their significant impact, indicating distinct underlying pathologies for different migraine types.
The study highlights a rare frameshift variant located in the PRRT2 gene that significantly increases the risk of migraines with aura and epilepsy but not migraines without aura.
In the SCN11A gene, crucial for pain sensation, multiple rare loss-of-function variants were found to offer protective effects against migraines. Conversely, a common missense variant in SCN11A is linked to a modest risk of migraines.