Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

NIH Finds Sleep Gene Linked to Migraines

ARCHIVES
Image via Peter Bernik/Shutterstock.com

Migraines—pounding headaches sometimes preceded by a visual “aura,” and often coupled with vomiting, nausea, distorted vision, and hypersensitivity to sound and touch—can be highly debilitating if recurrent and prolonged. They affect millions of Americans and an estimated 10–20 percent of the global population. Yet what predisposes individuals to them is somewhat of a mystery. Though there are certainly environmental triggers, the tendency for migraines to run in families suggests that there’s likely an inherited component. Recently, a team of NIH-funded researchers, one of whom regularly suffered from migraines herself, found a gene that plays a part.

The clue that helped them to identify the rogue gene came from a family that suffers from both migraines and a rare sleep disorder, called familial advanced sleep phase syndrome. The syndrome disrupts their sleep cycle, causing family members to fall asleep early, about 7 pm, and rise around 4 am.

The researchers hunted for the cause of the sleep cycle disorder and discovered a mutation in the casein kinase I delta (CKIδ) gene. The gene produces an enzyme that’s important for brain signaling and for regulating our circadian rhythms. The particular mutation in this family seemed to reduce the activity of the CKIδ enzyme and made the researchers wonder whether the mutation was also responsible for causing migraines. To test the hypothesis, they engineered mice that carried the same mutation.

Just like the humans, the CKIδ mutant mice had disrupted sleep-wake cycles— but they were also more likely to suffer migraines compared to normal mice when given nitroglycerin. I admit, you can’t exactly ask a mouse if it has a headache. But because migraines cause a range of sensory issues, there are other physical signs the researchers could monitor in the mice. In this case, the CKIδ mutant mice became more sensitive to pain, temperature, and touch than normal mice. This mirrors the experience of many migraine sufferers.

The CKIδ mutant mice were also more vulnerable to a type of brain activity called cortical spreading depression—a wave of electrical silence that follows electrical stimulation. Brain cells called astrocytes from CKIδ mutants functioned differently from those from healthy mice, suggesting one possible mechanism through which the mutation wreaks havoc in the brain.

CKIδ affects several different proteins in the cell. The next step will be to tease apart which of these plays a role in triggering migraines. Once we understand how migraines begin, we have a better chance of identifying a new generation of drugs that can block that painful path.

Image via Peter Bernik/Shutterstock.com

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. is the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In that role he oversees the work of the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world, spanning the spectrum from basic to clinical research. Dr. Collins is a physician-geneticist noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the international Human Genome Project, which culminated in April 2003 with the completion of a finished sequence of the human DNA instruction book. He served as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the NIH from 1993-2008.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.