Over the past few years, we’ve learned that there is a strong genetic component to migraine, to say the least. Genetics may go a long way toward explaining why those “triggers” cause contortions of pain in some people, and go unnoticed in others.
So is that it? Are we doomed, at least until some high-tech genetic splicing and dicing can be developed?
No, we’re not exactly doomed. There are a lot of excellent treatments out there. But recent research is raising new questions about our genes and how they work.
A study published in the journal Natural Communications investigated the activity of 22,822 genes in the body, and found that 5,136 of them – almost a quarter – changed their activity depending on the time of year.
What changes? A couple of examples are inflammation and immunity. Inflammation seems to be more “suppressed” in the summer months.
The majority of these changes are probably just ways that the body responds to and adapts to environmental changes. More diseases out there? Time to ramp up the immune system.
But what exactly is causing the change of activity? Is it temperature changes? Humidity? Sunlight (and so more vitamin D)?
What if we found that certain genetic activity was triggering migraine attacks – and what if we could “control” that activity by controlling our environment – better lighting, perhaps, or more or less exposure to temperature changes.
If you think this sounds impossibly complicated, it might help to remember how far genetic research has come in the last decade. Besides, we may already be “controlling” genetic activity more than we realize, by recognizing and targeting triggers.
Professor Mike Turner, Head of Infection and Immunobiology at the Wellcome Trust, says:
This is an excellent study which provides real evidence supporting the popular belief that we tend to be healthier in the summer. Seasonal variation to this extent is a fascinating find – the activity of many of our genes, as well as the composition of our blood and fat tissue, varies depending on the seasons. Although we are still unclear of the mechanism that governs this variation, one possible outcome is that treatment for certain diseases could be more effective if tailored to the seasons.
For more information:
- Seasonal immunity: Activity of thousands of genes differs from winter to summer
- Seasons May Influence Genes That Trigger Chronic Disease
- Seasons May Tweak Genes That Trigger Some Chronic Diseases
- Is there a “Headache season”?
- Cluster Headache: Seasons and Temperatures