The discovery of a faulty gene responsible for migraine — an extremely painful condition — offers a ray of hope to millions of sufferers.
The finding potentially opens the way to a new class of migraine-busting drugs and shows how debilitating headaches can be passed from parent to child.
Researchers from the Medical Research Council Functional Genomics Unit at the University of Oxford found the gene, called TRESK, in families of sufferers.
When the gene is mutated, it can more easily trigger the brain’s pain centres and cause severe headaches, reports the journal Nature Genetics.
Around one in four women and one in 12 men experience migraine, triggered by alcohol, stress, fluorescent lighting and foods such as chocolate, red wine and caffeine, according to the Daily Mail.
The World Health Organisation rates migraines as a major cause of disability worldwide and it has been estimated to be the most costly neurological disorder in Europe.
Study leader Zameel Cader from Oxford said: “We have now made a major step forward in our understanding of why people suffer with migraine and how in certain cases, your family can literally give you a headache.”
During the headache stage, victims experience a pulsating, throbbing pain — often on one side of head, sensitivity to bright lights and sound, nausea and often a strong desire to lie down in a darkened room. Severe attacks can last for days.
One in every two migraine sufferers believes that changes in the weather can trigger an attack.
Last year, a study at the Harvard University showed that a drop in atmospheric pressure and a rise in temperature are triggers.