Genetic link between hormones and migraine

Director of the Genomics Research Centre Professor Lyn Griffiths and her team of researchers at Griffith University have identified a genetic link between hormones and migraine.

Professor Griffiths said it was the first time a hormone receptor gene had been associated with migraine.

“We always knew that hormones were involved, now we know that there is a genetic basis,” Professor Griffiths said.

“It seems so obvious now, but it’s a whole new area of discovery. This is the initial finding, now we need to look at the mutations to see how a change in the DNA sequence affects the gene. There is more than one gene involved in migraine and different variations affect people differently.”

Professor Griffiths said women were three times more likely than men to suffer from migraine and they often experienced their first migraine at puberty.

“Pregnancy and menopause can also play havoc with migraine, which shows further evidence that hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone are implicated,” she said.

“There is also what we call a ‘menstrual migraine’ whereby migraine becomes linked to the menstrual cycle.”

While an effective treatment for the condition has not yet been identified, an awareness of the genetic link in hormones could help migraine management, particularly during hormonal changes.

She said Hormone Replacement Therapy and the Pill in some cases could worsen migraine, while in other cases lessen it.

“If women find their migraine worsens after going on the Pill, they may want to rethink their birth control options,” Professor Griffiths said.

Griffith University’s Professor Lyn Griffiths and her team at the Genomics Research Centre at the Gold Coast campus last year discovered that people who suffer from migraine might be genetically predisposed to suffering a stroke. Earlier, her team identified areas on chromosomes 1, 19 and X where migraine genes are found.

The Genomics Research Centre is always seeking volunteer migraine sufferers to provide blood samples at its Southport clinic (opposite the Gold Coast Hospital) for its research purposes. Please contact Sharon Quinlan on 07 5509 7300 to find out how you can help the centre and its quest to find a cure for migraine.

Migraine facts:

  • Migraine affects the nervous system of the body, causing nausea, vomiting and debilitating headaches
  • As many of 12 per cent of Australians suffer from migraine
  • About 90 per cent of migraine sufferers turn to painkillers to ease their pain, sometimes in excessive amounts
  • At present, the accurate diagnosis of migraine is difficult and current drug treatments only seem to be effective in some patients
  • Migraine tends to worsen in the 20s, but begins to ease in the 30s and 40s before almost dropping off completely in the 50s
  • With 10 years of migraine research behind them, Professor Griffiths and her team at the Genomics Research Centre are one of the world leaders in the field.

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