Migraines are a brain, not a vascular, disorder, contrary to what was believed in the past.
Armed with that knowledge, scientists who are trying to find a treatment for migraines are focusing their research on the brain chemical calcitonin gene-related peptide neurotransmitter, known as CGRP, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Researchers are taking two tacks: drugs that prevent CGRP from causing migraines by blocking its receptors in the brain, and creating antibodies that will absorb CGRP before it can cause a migraine, The Journal reported.
Right now, migraine sufferers are poorly served by medications on the market. The current drugs only help an estimated 50 percent to 60 percent of those who get migraines, and are not usable by those with heart disease or who’ve had a stroke, accorded to The Journal.
Migraine sufferers — one in 10 of adults around the globe — have symptoms such as pain, nausea, dizziness, and seeing visual manifestations, so-called auras. The Journal story said that CGRP has been suspected of playing a role in migraines, but that it was difficult to address its part because of the wrong idea about what causes migraines.
Until a dozen years ago, migraines were thought to be caused by constricted blood vessels in the brain. In reality, during a migraine nerve endings in the brain go awry. The brain’s trigeminal nucleus caudalis system becomes overactive, according to The Journal. Then the trigeminal nerve, which sends information to the face, is activated and blood vessels constrict. Pain ensues.
R&D on several CGRP blockers, including one by Merck & Co., was scrapped when it was discovered that the drug damaged the liver, The Journal reported.
Research on drugs that incorporate artificial antibodies, which merge with the CGRP before it reaches nerve receptors in the brain, is in its early stages.