Sunday, 25 March 2012

New genetic variants linked to common migraine!

Figure 1: From Glutamate structure
On the news a while ago I heard about a new study that has found genetic links to developing migraine. I did a little research and what I found was really interesting. There is a condition called 'Familial Hemiplegic Migraine' which involves serious attacks. It is quite rare, but is understood to be inherited as a dominant autosomal (non sex-linked) disorder. The condition most migraine sufferers experience though is known as 'common migraine' and that's what was spoken about on the news. A recent study by Sch├╝rks in 2010 found four alleles implicated in common migraine. Check his research out here: Schurks Paper. Here's a brief run-down on the four alleles and what their effects are:

  1. rs1835740- this allele is believed to result in neurotransmitter disturbances, because it is located between two genes involved in glutamate regulation. Glutamate is an amino acid and the major neurotransmitter of the central nervous system. You can see its structure in Figure 1. A similar study by Christensen et al. (2011) did a lot of work into this specific allele and migraines as well. Here's their paper: Christensen et al.
     2.      rs11172113- similarly involved in the role of glutamate receptors.

3.      rs10166942- located alongside a gene coding for cold and pain sensation. Interestingly, this is the first pain-related gene explicitly linked to migraines!

4.      rs2651899- the function of this allele is as yet unknown.
Figure 2: From: Role of glutamate in synaptic transmission.

It's interesting that glutamate regulation was implicated in two of the four alleles. Its role in the central nervous system is to excite neurons, resulting in depolarization of the postsynaptic nerve to pass an electrical signal across synapses in the nervous system. A diagram of how it works is in Figure 2.
The paper did say that these alleles only confer a small to medium elevation in risk of suffering from common migraine. Yet the research still outlines the genetic link in common migraine and how this can be inherited as a heterogeneous disorder.

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