Migraine headaches can be extremely painful and debilitating for hours or even a few days. Thankfully, once the migraine attack subsides, the sufferer usually returns to normal health quickly. Although this is ideal for the individual, this quick recovery has made it quite difficult for researchers to make strides in determining any clues about what causes migraines or the best ways to treat the condition.

Researchers have tried to study migraine patients when they’re healthy and attack-free, but so far, that research has resulted in very few worthwhile results. It seems that the physiological markers of migraines are hidden when a patient is healthy. But, new methods of science are taking a different approach—studying the underlying genetic codes of migraine sufferers.

A Different Type of Migraine Study

In a study published in the June 2013 online edition of Nature Genetics, scientists took a shot at this new approach. Instead of recruiting individual migraine patients and studying their current behaviors and habits, researchers drew upon evidence from 29 different genetic studies. In all, they were able to study more than 23,000 genetic samples from migraine patients and more than 95,000 control samples.

New Links, New Answers

By using this genetics-based method of migraine research, the scientists were able to identify five new genetic variations related to the onset of migraines. They found a total of 12 genetic regions that were associated with migraine susceptibility. The study pointed to 134 other genetic clues that could possibly be related to migraines, but need more research.

Scientists proposed that the genetic regions that appear to be activated during migraine attacks may be more vulnerable to cellular-level dysfunction. They believe that this dysfunction could be linked up between several parts of the brain, causing the painful symptoms of a migraine.

Although these results don’t convey a specific treatment or cure, the research is seen as a critical step in uncovering the biochemical and neurological processes that contribute to migraine attacks. Scientists are hopeful that new research can build off this study and confidently identify migraine triggers and causes in the near future.

Future Research

Scientists across the globe continue to the research the biological causes, triggers, and medical methods concerning migraines. Many components of migraines remain a mystery, but researchers are consistently finding new theories and paths that may lead to advanced treatment.

In the past year, researchers have been paying special attention to calcitonin gene-related peptide neurotransmitters (CGRP). They believe that CGRP plays an important role in stimulating the nerves in the brain that trigger a migraine. Their theories say that blocking CGRP will stop migraines.

In reality, this is easier said than done. Even though blocking CGRP diminishes some of the serious side effects of the usual migraine medications, it does cause liver problems. For now, these CGRP drugs are stuck in the testing phase. Other natural remedies like magnesium, vitamin B12, and butterbur are also being tested.

Do you have a family history of migraines? What new research would you like to see?

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