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Genetic Research into Migraines

Migraine headaches are a huge health problem. In a 2004 report, the World Health Organization (WHO) called migraines and headache disorders a global public health calamity. Migraines and other chronic headache conditions are disabling. In the same report, the WHO ranked migraine as one of the top twenty conditions in the world to cause years of healthy life lost due to disability. Migraines and all other headache disorders combined rank in the top ten causes of disability. As a result of the increasing global recognition of migraine as a health threat, genetic research into the condition has multiplied exponentially in the last ten to fifteen years.

Doctors have long known that a child with two migraineur parent will likely have migraines. A 2000 Danish study using primarily twins indicated that migraine without aura (common migraine) is approximately sixty-one percent genetic. The other thirty-nine percent was attributed to genetic factors, making migraines a partially genetic disease. Family history studies and the Danish study both suggest that migraines are a multi-genomic condition, meaning that several genes or combinations of genes are required for the condition to be inherited. In a study published in June 2003, Dutch doctors revealed that a particular sub-type of migraine, familial hemiplegic migraine, follows a conventional Mendelian inheritance pattern (simple inheritance) in seventy-five percent of all cases.

The same study indicated that common migraine is considerably more complex. Several potential genetic loci have been looked at. The Genomics Research Centre at Griffith University, Queensland, Australia, reports progress in locating genetic loci for migraines. Researchers have been studying multi-generational migraine sufferers within the same family for years. According to their website, the researchers have identified three different genetic regions on the chromosomes 1, 19, and X that harbor genes which increase migraine susceptibility. This type of research may eventually lead to a genetic treatment for migraines.


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