New Genetic Risk Factors Discovered in Migraine Study


Previous research has shown that genetic factors contribute immensely to the risk of migraine.

New research into the biological basis of migraines has more than tripled the number of known genetic risk factors for the condition. The analysis, which is the largest genome study of migraines to date, adds 2 more genetic regions that contain target genes of recently developed migraine-specific drugs, according to the investigators.

The study included migraine research groups in Europe, Australia, and the United States with data from more than 873,000 study participants, of whom 102,000 had migraine.

Previous research has shown that genetic factors contribute immensely to the risk of migraine. However, it has been debated whether the 2 main migraine types, migraine with aura and migraine without aura, share a similar genetic background.

For the current study, the research team used a large genetic dataset for a genome-wide association study (GWAS) allowing them to search for genetic variants that were more common in those who had migraine in general versus 1 of the 2 main migraine types.

“In addition to implicating tens of new regions of the genome for more targeted investigation, our study provides the first meaningful opportunity to evaluate shared and distinct genetic components in the two main migraine subtypes,” said first study author Heidi Hautakangas from the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, University of Helsinki, in a press release.

The results from the study supported the idea that migraine is brought about by both neuronal and vascular genetic factors, which suggests that migraine may be a neurovascular disorder, according to the investigators. They further noted that new treatments are needed to combat migraines, highlighting that the identification of genomic risk regions containing genes that encode targets for recently developed migraine-specific therapeutics is a key finding of the study.

One of the newly identified regions contains genes CALCA/CALCB encoding calcitonin gene-related peptide, which is a molecule involved in migraine attacks and blocked by the recently introduced CGRP inhibitor migraine medications. In addition, another risk region covers the HTR1F gene encoding serotonin 1F receptor, which are also targets for new migraine-specific medications.

“These 2 new associations near genes that are already targeted by effective migraine drugs suggest that there could be other potential drug targets among the new genomic regions, and provide a clear rationale for future genetic studies with even larger sample sizes,” said study lead Matti Pirinen, MD, group leader from the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, in a press release.


Largest genetic study of migraine to date reveals new genetic risk factors. February 3, 2022. Accessed March 11, 2022. EurekAlert!

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