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Even though migraines affect at least 15% of the world population, the causes of this phenomenon are still unknown. A recent study might bring us one step closer to solving the migraine mystery.

Migraine is a neurological disorder that is related to a higher electric irritability of sensorial neurons. Expert still don’t know the precise reasons why this happens. “Many of the genetic causes and physiopathological mechanisms are still unknown, which makes it harder to find efficient treatments”, notes Xavier Gasull, one of the experts taking part in the study. Gasull is part of the University of Barcelona and the IDIBAPS Research Group on Neurophysiology.

The research shows that an increase in neuronal activity can induce migraine pain, a dysfunction resulting from a mutation in the gene that codes a channel involved in the control of neuron irritability.

In the neurons, the proteins, or ionic channels, are in control of the electric signals. In sensorial neurons specifically, the TRESK and the TREK ionic channels are the ones in charge of stopping the excessive neuronal activation. A mutation in the gene that codes the ionic channel TRESK results in a dysfunctional protein. This directly affects the capability of the channel to control and reduce the electric activity in the sensorial neurons. But, this mutation also generates a second altered protein, which results in the alteration of other ionic channels, such as the TREK.

The mutation that creates two dysfunctional proteins is not exclusive of migraines. But, the research “prove the combination of both factors necessary to have a higher electric activation of sensorial neuros, which causes the typical migraine pain”, notes Xavier Gasull.

The symptoms of migraine are continuous and relentless episodes of headache, and in some cases it can also produce nauseas, vomiting and light sensibility. There are two known types of migraines; with and without aura. Migraine without aura is the most common consisting of 80% of the cases. Migraine with aura takes the remaining 20%, and it refers to those episodes in which the headaches are proceeded by sensory visual symptoms such as blind spots, flashes of light or shimmering spots.

The mechanisms responsible for migraine with aura in particular are sill unknown, so this research is a step forward in solving this. The study’s conclusion provides new perspectives for future researches on migraine, while it also allows for the creation of new forms of therapeutic treatments.