Migraines and Genetics

2 Mins Read

Jack Chin
at Advanx Health

Gene linked to migraines might have helped us adapt to colder climates.

Are migraines a common occurrence that we have no control over?

To this day, scientists are still researching everything they can about migraines, from what causes them to how they happen. Scientist believe that both genetics and environmental factors play a role in causing migraines.

It is believed that migraines are hereditary, which means that if one or both of your parents experience migraines, there is a 50% to 75% chance that you might also experience migraines. That's a pretty high chance!

Let's dive into the genes that might have caused migraines.

Scientists have found more than 20 genes associated with migraines, and today we'll look more specifically at TRPM8 gene. TRPM8, which stands for “transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily M member 8” , is a protein that is encoded by the TRPM8 gene. The TRPM8 channel is the primary molecular sensor that senses cold and menthol in humans.

How is a gene linked with sensing cold, associated with being vulnerable to migraines?

A study suggests that evolution and colder temperature influence the likelihood of migraines.

How did it happen? Migraines have been more prevalent in people with European descent compared to people who are from Africa. For example, 88% of people who originated from Finland have a variant of the TRPM8 gene, but only 5% of people from Nigeria seems to have that variant.

Some researchers believe that when humans leave the warm Africa continent to colonise other parts of the world, some studies have shown that they might have developed different variants of the TRPM8 gene to help them adapt to the colder climates in northern regions.

How are the variants different?

It is theorised that the TRPM8 variant of the people in colder regions reduces the TRPM8 channel. Since the TRPM8 channel is a key sensor of cold, when it is reduced, the ability of the nerve to respond to cold reduces as well. This leads to a higher tolerance to lower temperatures in northern geographical regions.

Isn't that interesting?

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  1. The Genetics of Migraine. American Migraine Foundation. May 18, 2017. Available at: https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/understanding-migraine/the-genetics-of-migraine/
  2. Gormley, Padhraig et al. Meta-Analysis of 375,000 Individuals Identifies 38 Susceptibility Loci for Migraine. Nature genetics 48.8 (2016): 856–866. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5331903/
  3. Key FM, Abdul-Aziz MA, et al. Human local adaptation of the TRPM8 cold receptor along a latitudinal cline. PLoS Genet. 2018 May; 14(5): e1007298. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5933706/

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