Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Manufacturing Migraines
21 October 2013

Manufacturing Migraines

Pulsating pain on one side of the head is a classic manifestation of migraine. But sufferers may also experience nausea, vomiting and light-sensitivity, with little option but to lie in a dark room and take pain-killers. Approximately 15 percent of the world’s population suffers migraines at some point, but for many it’s a recurring, life-interrupting affliction. To better understand migraine biology, scientists induce them artificially – for example, by infusion of nitroglycerine – and then examine the resulting physiology. This method has been shown, in both people and rodents, to increase blood levels of a protein involved in pain transmission called CGRP. And scientists have also discovered in rats that a component of this protein’s receptor (red) is increased in a part of the brain called the trigeminal ganglion (pictured). Given that blood levels of CGRP also increase in people suffering spontaneous migraines, the nitroglycerine-induction approach appears to be an accurate model.

Written by Ruth Williams

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