The Link Between Migraine Headaches and the Cold Adapting Variant


In a recent report published in PLOS Genetics, researchers identified a genetic variant implicated in migraines that may have proliferated because it enabled humans to adapt to cold weather. Data suggest that the variant became more common when humans migrated to colder environments outside of Africa approximately 25,000 years ago. Using data generated for the 1000 Genomes Project, scientists determined that the variant, which is also linked to migraine headaches, shows population differences with occurrence in 88% of people of Finnish ancestry versus just 5% in people of Nigerian ancestry. The results suggest that positive selection caused a higher prevalence of the variant in populations that migrated north; however, it also brought with it a susceptibility to migraine headaches. Adaptation to the cold has likely resulted in the variation in occurrence in migraines observed among different populations.

For more information, a short summary can be found on Science Daily. The complete research article, “Human local adaptation of the TRPM8 cold receptor along a latitudinal cline” by Felix M. Key et al. is published in PLOS Genetics.

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