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QIMR gets to grips with migraines

The world’s largest study of migraines has discovered five new genetic regions linked to their onset, opening new doors to understanding what causes the debilitating headaches.

In all, the international team confirmed 12 genetic regions associated with migraine susceptibility.

Senior author, Dr Dale Nyholt from QIMR’s Neurogenetics Laboratory, said the study had greatly advanced the biological understanding of what caused migraines.

“Migraine is a difficult neural condition to study because between episodes the patient is basically healthy, so it’s extremely hard to uncover biochemical clues,” Dr Nyholt said.

“But these sorts of biological or biochemical results and insights are essential if we are to fully get to grips with this debilitating condition.”

Migraine is a common and distressing brain disorder which causes severe headaches. It affects about 14% of adults. Symptoms include throbbing, aura, nausea, vomiting, light and noise sensitivity.

This study compared the results from 29 different genomic studies, including over 100,000 samples from both migraine patients and control samples.

“We would not have made these discoveries by studying smaller groups of individuals,” Dr Nyholt said.

“This large scale method of studying means we can tease out the genes that are important suspects and follow them up in the lab.”

The team believes many of the genetic regions are interconnected and could be disrupting the internal regulation of tissue and cells in the brain, resulting in some of the symptoms of migraine.

This study is published in Nature Genetics and can be viewed at