Recent genetic research has identified some possible new treatments for hemiplegic migraine – treatments which may also work for other types of migraine in the future.
It may be much more exciting when a new treatment is just about to hit the market, but it’s worth noting the steps that many of these treatments have had to go through in order to get to your medicine cabinet. So this is one of those treatments that is still in the very early stages.
This study, based in Spain, received a research grant from the Migraine Research Foundation. The study was based around certain genetic mutations, in this case in the P/Q-type calcium channel (CaV2.1). These types of mutations have been linked to a number of disorders, including hemiplegic migraine. It is believed that the functional changes caused by these mutations may lead to the cortical spreading depression – a kind of brain storm that occurs in other types of migraine as well (a storm of activity that sometimes leads to the visual auras many migraine patients have experienced).
So if there is a dysfunction in this calcium channel, the question is – could we find a medication that could fix it? And, importantly, a targeted tool – a medication that won’t cause a bunch of other problems and make other unwanted changes at the same time.
In other words, we want laser surgery, not a dynamite blast.
The researchers started with a database of millions of compounds that interact with this calcium channel. Then they started narrowing things down. Would this compound do what we want? Would it likely cause major side effects? Is it even available? If available, is it too expensive to manufacture? And so on, and so on.
After this extensive research, the millions were narrowed down to 6 – yes, just six – six possible compounds that have a good chance to be treatments.
At this point, animal studies often follow to test general safety before a possible drug for humans is developed.
This is an amazing process that would not be available without our knowledge of genetics, international cooperation, and modern computers. And one more thing – funding. Thanks to those of you who have given to the Migraine Research Foundation, research like this is possible.
If a medication could be developed to stop the hyper-sensitivity of migraine, stopping the cortical spreading depression, it could drastically improve the lives of millions.
To read more about this research, check out Identification of novel, selective voltage-gated CaV2.1 calcium channel inhibitors which reverse the gain of channel function produced by Hemiplegic Migraine CACNA1A mutations.