Migraines are excruciatingly painful and can be all too common, but new research breakthrough could pinpoint a cure.
For migraine sufferers – about one in 10 men and nearly two in 10 women – existing treatments can be ineffective and trigger unpleasant and severe side effects, writes The New Zealand Herald.
For almost 20 years, scientists have known that migraines occur in people who have elevated levels of a pain-causing hormone called CGRP, or calcitonin gene-related peptide.
A new class of drugs called gepants, which work by blocking CGRP activity at the hormone’s receptor in nerves, which were in the testing phase to provide treatment for sever attacks were not as effective as hoped.
However, a team of researchers from University of Auckland in New Zealand may have figured out the missing link.
“We have discovered that CGRP activates a second target on the surface of pain-sensing nerve cells, called AMY1, which the gepants are not designed to block,” Associate Professor Debbie Hay, of the university’s School of Biological Sciences, said in a statement.
“Despite this hormone having such a clear role in migraines, why it’s been so hard to actually block it may be that we need to block two things and not just one.”
Her colleague, research fellow Dr Christopher Walker, said CGRP-receptor blocking drugs had been the great hope in migraine treatment for a long time, but the presence of the second receptor could explain why targeting CGRP for migraine has been hard to exact.
Further research is now needed to understand how the two receptors work together, and what role each plays in nerves related to pain in the head.
“But we are excited about the possibilities that AMY1 holds for treating migraine and even other types of pain,” Dr Walker said.
“We need a new class of painkillers that people can take regularly – opioids work but there are tolerance and addiction issues, and that’s not good enough.”
The study was published in the journal Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology.