New Study Finds Genes Associated with Migraines

Migraine is a highly prevalent brain disorder characterized by disabling attacks of moderate-to-severe pulsating and usually one-sided headaches that may be aggravated by physical activity and can be associated with symptoms such as hypersensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and vomiting.

It has a lifetime prevalence of 15-20% and is ranked as the second most disabling condition in terms of years lived with disability. It is also 3 times more prevalent in females than in males. 

The exact cause of migraine is unknown, but one theory, says that it is a neurovascular condition that involves interactions between blood vessels in the head and brain. According to some studies genes account for up to 60% of a person’s risk of having the condition.

A recent study published in the journal Nature Genetics has found that two types of migraine, with (MA) or without aura (MO), have distinct genetics but also share some genetic characteristics. 

Study May Inspire New Treatment Options

The team behind the study evaluated the genomes of 102,084 people with migraine. The study also included the genomes of 771,257 controls who did not have migraines. 

The researchers found 123 genetic regions, also called loci, that were associated with migraines, 86 of which were previously known, while also discovering 3 genetic loci that appeared to be specific to MA, 2 specific to MO, and 9 associated with both. 

Knowing these genetic risk factors of a subtype of the disease might help to develop more effective drugs against that specific subtype. Some of the important loci found were: HMOX2, CCNA1A, MPPED2, SPINK2, and FECH. 


Hautakangas, H., Winsvold, B.S., Ruotsalainen, S.E. et al. Genome-wide analysis of 102,084 migraine cases identifies 123 risk loci and subtype-specific risk alleles. Nat Genet 54, 152–160 (2022). 

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