News & Research

Genetics of Migraine

Genetic research of migraine began more than 35 years ago, but the last 10 years have yielded numerous studies identifying various genes and chromosomes involved in different types of headache. The Queensland Institute of Medical Research study, which was reported earlier this month, zeroed in on chromosomes responsible for different migraine symptoms. This is important for distinguishing migraine from other neurological disorders with similar symptoms. The particular symptoms described in the study are sensitivity to sound (phonophobia), sensitivity to light (photophobia), pulsing headache, exertion-induced pain and severity of headache.

The lead researcher, Dr. Dale Nyholt, that a chromosomes have been identified, but that a specific gene implicated in headaches has not yet been isolated. He says, “We haven’t quite found the gene yet. We’ve found a region where there could be any number of a few dozen genes, which could actually be causing the migraine. So what we need to do now is go and test all these genes to find out which specific gene is causing the migraine.”

Previous research has determined a chromosomal region for migraine without aura and migraine with aura, among others. The only type of migraine for which a specific gene has been identified is familial hemiplegic migraine. Visit PubMed for more journal article abstracts on the genetics of migraine. For much less technical information, search the ACHE website matching all the terms “migraine gene headache news.” (This isn’t an elegant way to read the information, but it’s all there if you’re willing to look through the pages.)

Teri Robert of’s headache page has written a good summary of the latest research in More of the Genes Responsible for Migraine Discovered.

Note: I edited the first two sentences of the third paragraph to make them more clear. 9/15/05

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