Recent Study Highlights the Genetic Basis of Hemiplegic Migraines

According to a story from eurekalert.org, a recently study has helped reveal some of the genes that are associated with hemiplegic migraine headaches. About 15-20 percent of adults in the developed world are affected by some form of migraine. Researchers have known for some time that migraines tend to run in families, but the specifics of this tendency are only recently getting explored in research.

Hemiplegic migraine headaches are one of the rarest and most severe types of migraine. As its name suggests, it can lead to a feeling of weakness that affects one half of the body. It can also lead to other severe symptoms, such as paralysis, ataxia, and coma. They can also last for up to weeks at a time. Hemiplegic migraines are also known to have a genetic basis, and can be passed down in families. It can also appear as the result of a new genetic mutation. Hemiplegic migraine patients should avoid activities that could trigger potential attacks. Minor head trauma is all it takes for an episode to begin, so most doctors recommend that patients avoid contact sports. To learn more about hemiplegic migraines, click here.

In earlier studies, scientists were able to determine three distinct genes that were associated with hemiplegic migraines. However, researchers knew that there were other ways in which migraines could be genetically inherited. This alternate way is called polygenic inheritance, in which a certain combination or group of genes could lead to a person having migraines. Alone, the genes involved would not have an impact. Only when they are expressed together do they cause symptoms.

The study examined genetic data from 8,319 people that were known migraine headache patients. The analysis illustrated that the polygenic variants had the greatest influence over the patient’s likelihood of experiencing migraines. The polygenic inheritance was most implicated in the patients that had the most severe attacks, experienced attacks at an early age, and had family members that also suffered from migraines.

The three genes that had been identified in earlier research seemed to play a less significant role than the scientists had expected. Of a sample of 45 migraine affected families, only in four were the three genes the primary driver.

The results of this research suggest that future treatments should take into account the fact that polygenic inheritance is the main genetic factor for hemiplegic migraines.


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