Approximately 36 million Americans suffer from migraines, more than have asthma or diabetes combined.
Migraines are characterized by pulsating or throbbing headache pain which can be moderate to severe in intensity. The severity of migraines can be disabling for sufferers.
In terms of productivity loss and medical expenses, migraines costs the United States more than $20 billion each year.
Now, thanks to Rouleau’s discovery, it appears that new migraine therapies and preventative drugs are on the horizon for the first time since the discovery of triptans in the 1980s.
Triptans act by constricting blood vessels in the brain, which inhibits pain receptors in order to block migraines for some patients, but are not considered a preventative therapy.
Rouleau’s research confirmed the idea that migraine can “run” in families, and therefore are in part fueled by a genetic component. Because researchers can now focus on a gene to target, more effective treatments can be developed.
“We may be moving toward developing about a pill that would block the brain’s pain channel that reacts to stimulation and causes pain in migraine,” said Dr. Rouleau in a press release. “Sequencing the gene not only allows us to understand the disease – it also opens understanding of the pain pathways that trigger migraine pain.”
“For the first time in decades, I have seen great interest by the research community, including the private pharmaceutical industry, in developing preventive migraine therapies,” he said.
Dr. Rouleau presented his research at the annual meeting of the American Headache Society.