Scientists have found the gene that seems to link to common forms of migraine headaches. This discovery in turn has led to hopes that new drugs can be developed to treat this often debilitating malady.
According to AFP:
“Scientists from 40 medical centres pored over the genetic profiles of more than 50,000 people, comparing those who suffered badly from migraines with others who were otherwise healthy.
“What came up in the net was a tiny but telltale variant of DNA that boosts the risk of getting migraines by around fifth. “
The story goes on to state:
“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.”
Migraines can be severely debilitating, causing the sufferer great pain.
“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 vary widely. “
People suffering with severe migraines cannot work, interact with other people, or do much of anything at all except lay in complete darkness and silence and wait until the attack goes away. The lost of productivity and quality time, not to mention the pain and suffering is incalculable.
The caveat, as with all of these types of medical stories, is that more research is needed, especially into other genetic markers for migraines. It thus may be some years before drugs that can alleviate the symptoms of migraines can come on the market.
The prospect of a drug or series of drugs to treat migraine headaches, the sufferers of which number in the tens of millions, raises certain public policy questions. The development of a migraine therapy is likely to be expensive, as are most breakthrough drugs. The way the health care reform legislation handles cost is to limit the access to expensive drugs and other medical treatments.
Thus, if health care reform is not rolled back, migraine sufferers may find their access to drugs controlled by health care bureaucrats, who may not necessarily allow the use of such drugs based on obscure criteria.
On the other hand, if severe migraine can be controlled, then the savings in productivity could be profound. This suggests that a more free market approach to cost cutting should be substituted for the bureaucratic methods contemplated under health care reform. Employers might be willing to subsidize the cost of such drugs, likely through insurance, if it means that migraine sufferers will not have to take as much time off while dealing with their bouts of migraine attacks. In other words, this is something best left outside the purview of what Sarah Palin euphemistically called “The Death Panels.”
Source: Unveiled: First gene link to common migraine, AFP, August 29th, 2010