Looking at migraines with new treatments
A migraine is not just a bad headache. The disease can cause sharp pain that leaves you bedridden for days. Even slight movement, light or sound can cause symptoms like pain, nausea, discomfort, difficulty speaking, temporary loss of vision, etc.
New research has identified a genetic cause-and-effect link between migraine risk and altered levels of five proteins in the blood. Lower levels of the FARS2, GSTA4 and CHIC2 proteins have been linked to inflammation and migraine headaches. Higher levels of the DKK1 and PDGFB proteins are associated with brain disorders.
The increased risk effect of DKK1 provides a potential mechanistic link between previously reported associations between migraine, Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and cerebrovascular disease (CAA)..
Higher levels of the blood proteins DKK1 and PDGFB inhibit signaling pathways that transmit biological signals into cells and can lead to brain calcification as well as pain-causing inflammation, while lower levels of the anti-inflammatory blood proteins FARS2, GSTA4 and CHIC2 oxidation also induce migraine-associated inflammation.
Is there a link to Alzheimer’s disease?
This remarkable finding of the strong causal effect of higher DKK1 levels on migraine risk may be related to decreased signaling as observed in Alzheimer’s disease.
Cerebral angiomas are a buildup of proteins in brain arteries that are known to cause Alzheimer’s disease, and hypoplasia has also been shown to increase neuropathic pain in a mouse model.
Migraine is considered one of the most common neurological diseases in the world and is under scrutiny because of its substantial public health burden.
Proposed treatments for Alzheimer’s that aim to restore signaling in the brain may represent new therapeutic tools for treating migraines.
The good news is that there has been some development of a therapy targeting increased DKK1 for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and the potential for re-using that therapy for migraine.
There’s no genetic link between migraines and Alzheimer’s disease, but controlling DKK1 levels could, in theory, prevent people with migraines from developing Alzheimer’s disease.
However, although a small group of people with Alzheimer’s disease may also have a history of migraines, not all migraine patients have this association – not all migraine sufferers. All will get Alzheimer’s disease.
There is often no single cause for these complex conditions that leads to a diagnosis. There are many different mechanistic pathways that can go wrong and lead to disease.
Future clinical studies should examine whether altering blood levels of related proteins, such as using existing DKK1 inhibitors, reduces the occurrence of migraine in patients migraine or not.