The work could have a significant impact on improving drugs developed to both prevent and treat migraines.
Fan Bu, a Ph.D. student at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in Suzhou, China, has revealed a previously unknown mechanism that involves a protein within brain cells. This protein plays a key role in a migraine starting and developing. When the protein, named sarcoma family kinases, is activated in the cells in the brain, it can potentially lead to the neurological responses that may trigger migraines.
Fan Bu commented on the ongoing work that is part of his doctoral project:
“We knew that this protein existed and it was involved in other diseases, but we had not known its significant involvement in migraines until I studied the underlying mechanism of a key subunit of a cell membrane protein associated with a migraine, that had been identified in the early stages of my Ph.D. project.”
Fellow scientists believe that if the activity of this particular protein can be prohibited, migraines may be prevented from occurring at all. The discovery has potential importance in identifying targeted drugs for preventing migraines.
A migraine is a primary headache disorder marked by recurrent headaches that can be moderate or even severe. More than one billion people, around 16 percent of world’s population, suffer the debilitating symptoms of migraines on a regular basis. Usually, the headaches affect only one half of the head and have a pulsating nature. They can last anywhere from a couple of hours to three days.
In the past, scientists had a strong belief that migraines were linked to the changes in blood flow in the brain. However, that belief has now changed, reasoning that migraines are also caused by inherited abnormalities in genes that control the activities of certain brain cells.
“There are currently no cures for migraines, the most effective thing is for people to prevent them from happening,” said Fan. “My work will contribute to the ongoing drug development that might ultimately discover cures, which is very exciting.”
The initial recommended treatment for people having migraines is with a simple pain medication such as ibuprofen and paracetamol for a headache, medication for nausea, and the avoidance of triggers. There are also specific medications such as triptans or ergotamines that may be used in situations where simple pain medications are not having the desired effect.
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