Scientists have isolated "a tiny but telltale variant of DNA that boosts the risk of getting migraines by around fifth." So what does this mean for sufferers?
"There is no pain in matter," my Christian-Scientist great-grandmother apparently used to chant when a migraine struck. Maybe not, but as any migraine sufferer can tell you (Gramma Turner aside) there's an awful lot in your head. Migraines are, says the WHO, in the top 20% in terms of "years lived with disability," and it's true that for most migraine sufferers it's something you just...get used to. Says Breitbart, in a writeup of the story, "Migraine is believed to occur when inflammatory chemicals are released around the nerves and blood vessels in the head, inducing pain that can be excruciating. It is sometimes accompanied by nausea and hyper-sensitivity to light and sound. Common migraines fall into two categories — those with an "aura," or shimmering circle seen by the sufferer, and those without. Sufferers tend to be aged 35-45, although the frequency and duration of the attacks can very widely."
I got my first migraine at 3, and have been getting them ever since - as have every generation of my family, so no shocker there. The sinking feeling of knowing a migraine is coming - be it through blurred vision, the beginnings of an aura, a bout of nausea or the start of a shooting pain in the temple - becomes a grim constant to be headed off with meds if possible - but usually just something to give into for the next 12 hours or so. If you've been to a special migraine doctor, or headache clinic, you know how little they really know - and how costly all that is. You can get Imitrex and in inhalers for controlling the pain; Beta-blockers and daily medications to keep bloodflow from constricting; Biofeedback or Botox or muscle exercises. And your migraines always come back.
So, what of the new discovery? Says Breitbart,
The tiny genetic variant, or allele, is called rs1835740. Lying on Chromosome 8 between two genes, PGCP and MTDH/AEG-1, it allows a messenger chemical called glutamate to accumulate in junctions between brain cells, and this unleashes the migraine, the scientists believe. If so, drug engineers have a tempting target in preventing glutamate buildup, they hope.
Well might they: there's a ready-made market desperate to try anything, and spare future generations the same. And in the inscrutable world of migraine research, even a layman knows this is huge. But given the probable variation in migraines, could this really be a cure-all? One thing's for sure: a lot of us will be watching.