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New directions in migraine

Greg A Weir and M Zameel Cader*

Author Affiliations

Medical Research Council Functional Genomics Unit, Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

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BMC Medicine 2011, 9:116  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-116

Published: 25 October 2011

Abstract

Migraine is a highly prevalent neurological disorder imparting a major burden on health care around the world. The primary pathology may be a state of hyperresponsiveness of the nervous system, but the molecular mechanisms are yet to be fully elucidated. We could now be at a watershed moment in this respect, as the genetic loci associated with typical forms of migraine are being revealed. The genetic discoveries are the latest step in the evolution of our understanding of migraine, which was initially considered a cerebrovascular condition, then a neuroinflammatory process and now primarily a neurogenic disorder. Indeed, the genetic findings, which have revealed ion channels and transporter mutations as causative of migraine, are a powerful argument for the neurogenic basis of migraine. Modulations of ion channels leading to amelioration of the migraine 'hyperresponsive' brain represent attractive targets for drug discovery. There lies ahead an exciting and rapidly progressing phase of migraine translational research, and in this review we highlight recent genetic findings and consider how these may affect the future of migraine neurobiology and therapy.