Did you know that migraine affects 1 in 7 people worldwide?
Recently, four professors of neuroscience were awarded the Brain Prize for their life-changing contributions to the research on migraines, a disease previously not understood well.
Professor Michael Moskowitz from Harvard Medical School, Peter Goadsby from King’s College London, Lars Edvinsson from Lund University in Sweden, and Jes Olesen from Rigshospitalet, Denmark, will be celebrated as the recipients of the Brain Prize, the world’s most distinguished award highlighting achievements in brain research.
The Crown Prince of Denmark will present the four professors with a grand prize of a whopping DKK 10 million, roughly 1.5 million USD, on October 25 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
What Are Migraines?
Migraines remain one of the most serious and common neurological illnesses millions around the world suffer.
Studies show that women are three times more likely to experience frequent and intense migraines than men, and symptoms can last up to 24 hours. Typically, these intense head-throbbing pains are also accompanied by nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and sensitivity to sound, light, and touch.
What does this study tell us?
After over forty years of research, the four professors pinpointed the major cause — a type of chemical released within the brain.
Previously, the main causes of migraines were thought to be stress, pressure, or anxiety. In 1979, Professor Michael Moskowitz discovered that headaches occur when thin nerves found in our head and face interact with a highly-sensitive membrane surrounding our brain, releasing chemicals called neuropeptides. These chemicals can then cause the blood vessels in our head to expand and also send pain signals to the brain.
Later, research by Professor Goadsby and Edvinsson revealed that the specific neuropeptide which plays the central role in causing the intense headache was called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP).
Then, Professor Oleson’s work further confirmed that CGRP was indeed responsible for triggering the pain, rather than a chemical produced in the brain as a result of the migraines.
What does this mean for the future?
The work by these scientists paves the way towards developing more effective medicine. While past treatments only temporarily stopped the pain, scientists say that the newly developed drugs not only prevent migraines but also don’t cause the negative side effects users had to endure.
Currently, there are three new drug treatments available in the U.K and the U.S. While the new drugs are not a complete cure for migraines, they are a significant step in improving the lives and health of millions across the world.
Sources: BBC, Guardian, Mayoclinic