Why do researchers investigate the genetic background of migraine?


“So, we started working on migraine in 1995 and probably one of the first papers, in fact I think it might have been the first paper looking at the potential role of genes and gene variation in migraines.

“So, as an example, we know that migraine is strongly genetic, about 90% of migraine sufferers have another close relative that suffers from migraine. So it's quite a strong genetic component. Most of the time the relative will be a first-order relative, such as a parent or a sibling, so it's strongly genetic, but we do know there's environmental factors, as well. But the focus of my work has been on the genetic factors. Trying to identify what genes play a role, and why would you do that? Well, obviously I do that because I like looking at genes but I suppose the other side is that if you know what genes are causing a disorder, you can do two things a lot better. One, you can diagnose that disorder a lot better and two, you can start to target the treatment to that particular gene.

“Now we know that migraines are complex, and you said the word, it's a complex genetic disorder and this doesn't mean just tricky. It means that it has multiple genes. So it's different genes in different people. And so, that's what we've been trying to do: to identify how many genes are there, what genes play a role in terms of treatment response, what genes play a role in severity, and what genes provide useful information in terms of diagnostics and in terms of developing new treatments. So that's been our role.”


About 90% of people with migraine have a close relative with migraine. There is a strong genetic component.

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Professor Lyn Griffiths, PhD, BSc Hons

Director, Centre for Genomics & Personalised Health
Queensland University of Technology, Australia

Professor Lyn Griffiths is the executive director of the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, the largest interdisciplinary research institute at Queensland University of Technology. An active and respected molecular geneticist with more than 28 years of experience studying human complex gene disorders, with specific expertise in human gene mapping and gene expression analysis in migraine, cardiovascular disease, and several types of cancer. Professor Griffiths leads the Genomics Research Centre, in which the main focus of research is the identification of genes involved in common human disorders and the translation of this research into new diagnostics and therapeutics.

Professor Griffiths’ own genetics research has appeared in more than 350 peer-reviewed international journals and led to diagnostic breakthroughs for several neurogenetic disorders, including familial migraine, ataxia, epilepsy, and hereditary stroke. A fellow of the Queensland Academy of Arts and Science, Professor Griffiths has also established several significant international collaborations with the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, Oxford University, University of Vienna, the Italian National Research Council, the MS ANZgene Consortium, and the International Migraine Genetics Consortium.