Scientists Discover Potential Source of Migraines

A board-certified family and osteopathic physician, Dr. John Fritz owns and operates a primary care practice in Jersey City, New Jersey. At his Jersey City practice, Dr. John Fritz draws on an in-depth knowledge of migraine treatments to offer patients access to any available therapy.

In early October of 2015, researchers from New York University and New Zealand’s University of Auckland released findings indicating that a certain neuropeptide may prompt the onset of migraine symptoms. These neuropeptides, PACAP and VIP, act as dilators on blood vessels in the brain, a process that before this study was widely thought to be a primary contributing cause of migraine headaches. However, study researchers found that rats who received PACAP experienced an increase in neuron activity and the onset of migraine-like symptoms. Rats who received VIP displayed no such symptoms.

These findings suggest that it is not blood vessel dilation that is the likely cause of migraine, but rather the activation of PACAP receptor PAC1. This receptor causes a firing of the pain signal in the brain’s trigeminovascular neurons, which in turn causes migraine’s characteristic symptoms. Researchers tested this theory by injecting subject rats with chemicals that blocked the PAC1 receptor, and doing so was found to inhibit the firing of the trigeminovascular nerve. Scientists see these findings as a potential jumping-off point for research into PAC1 blockers as a migraine treatment.

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