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Italian Scientists Discover Migraine Gene
Excerpt By Rachel Sanderson, Reuters Health

MILAN (Reuters) - Two Italian scientists have discovered a gene linked to severe migraines, a finding they say could pave the way to banishing not only migraines but everyday headaches as well.

Geneticist Giorgio Casari and neuroscientist Roberto Marconi of Milan's San Raffaele Institute spent four years screening the genetic makeup of six generations of a migraine-prone family and found they all had a gene in common.

"We have discovered a new gene related to migraines and this opens a pathway ... to new therapeutic approaches," Casari told Reuters from his Milan office Tuesday.

The research is set to be published online by journal Nature Genetics later Tuesday.

Found in chromosome 1--one of the most well-documented chromosomes of the human body--the ATP1A2 gene causes a malfunction of the pump that shifts sodium and potassium through the cell, the scientists said.

Rather than healthy, polygon-shaped cells, the mutant cells were rounded and swollen, leading to the pain, flashing lights and sensation of tingling hair that debilitates severe "aura" migraine sufferers.

"The chromosome is so well researched, it will not be difficult or take long to find a therapy for it," Casari said.

Current pills for headaches tend to numb the pain but not mend the cause, and targeting the faulty pump action could head off the pain at its source, helping not only sufferers of hard-hitting migraines but those who get common headaches too.

"A milder form of the mutation could be responsible for a milder headache," Marconi said.

Hundreds of trial patients are lined up to participate in the next round of research, which will look into whether the gene is also responsible for milder headaches, the scientists said.

Casari and Marconi are ready to work with drug developers to find a treatment to fix the faulty pump action. They say the right drug could already be available but existing treatments need to be tested for suitability.

The pair are the latest Italian scientists to carry out breakthrough research on a shoe-string budget, overcoming reams of red tape--a predicament that has caused many of Italy's best scientific minds to flee the country.

Casari said the research cost around $100,000, a trickle compared with the rivers of funds available to US and British scientists.

Reference Source 89


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