Research Highlights

More genes linked to migraines

Published online 1 July 2013

Aisha El-Awady


Although migraines are a common neurological disorder, affecting some 14% of adults, little is known about how they strike. Much progress, however, has been made in the identification of gene variations associated with a person's susceptibility to suffer migraines.

An international team of researchers led by Aarno Palotie from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the UK, including researchers from King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Riyadh, combed through 29 genome-wide association studies involving a total of 23,285 migraine sufferers and 95,425 population-matched controls. They found links between 12 gene loci and migraine susceptibility: five of which were unknown and seven confirming previous studies, publishing their results in Nature Genetics1.

One of the new loci is associated with migraine without aura — which are perceptual disturbances experienced by some migraine sufferers at the onset of a migraine — while none were exclusively associated with migraine with aura. This suggests that migraine with aura is less influenced by common genetic factors than migraine without aura, contrary to previous expectations.

Further examination of certain loci known to control gene expression yielded five additional genes with possible association with migraine susceptibility.

"Being able to bring this many research groups from around the world together to generate these kinds of exciting results is a big step towards understanding the problem of migraines." says geneticist Verneri Anttila, one of the contributing authors of the study.


  1. Palotie, A. et al. Genome-wide meta-analysis identifies new susceptibility loci for genome. Nature Genetics (2013) doi:10.1038/ng.2676