An international study led by scientists at Universite de Montreal and University of Oxford, has identified a gene associated with common migraines. Their findings show that a mutation in the KCNK18 gene inhibits the function of a protein called TRESK. TRESK normally plays a key role in nerve cell communication. Published in Nature Medicine, this study may have implications for people who suffer from recurrent headaches, which include more than six million Canadians.
Previously, genes for migraine have been found only in a rare form involving headaches combined with limb weakness limited to one side of the body. “We focused on the more common types of migraine, without this muscle weakness, in our study, and looked at genes controlling brain excitability,” says lead author Ron Lafreniere, Associate Director of the Centre of Excellence in Neuromics of the Université de Montréal (CENUM).
The researchers compared the DNA from migraine sufferers to that of non-sufferers. “We found a mutation in the KCNK18 gene that interrupts TRESK function in one large family suffering from migraine with aura,” say Lafreniere. “When we tested everyone in the family, all those who suffered from migraine also had the mutation.”
Aura migraines are those that are preceded or accompanied by sensory warning symptoms or signs (auras), such as flashes of light, blind spots or tingling in an arm or leg. The ensuing headache can be associated with sensitivity to lights, sounds, and smells, as well as nausea and occasional vomiting.
Source: Sophie Langlois
University of Montreal