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Migraine Gene Discovered

LIVERMORE, Calif.—Nov. 1, 1996 -- Dutch researchers working with human patient studies and using chromosome fragments from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have identified a gene that may hold a key to understanding and eventually treating migraine headache.

Scientists working at Leiden University in The Netherlands have discovered an abnormally structured gene in people suffering from a rare inherited form of migraine called familial hemiplegic migraine. Researchers believe knowledge gained in studying this new gene will help understand the cause of other forms of migraine and will be important for the effort to develop treatment for the condition.

The newly discovered gene resides on chromosome 19, the organization and structure of which has long been studied by Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. Three years ago, the Dutch researchers contacted Livermore scientists for the physical map of the chromosome and for fragments of DNA from the region of chromosome 19 in which the Dutch were interested. DNA are the molecules that make up chromosomes.

The gene eventually discovered by the Dutch regulates the transport of calcium into specific classes of brain cells. The movement of calcium into these cells regulates the release of neurotransmitters, which are critical elements in the network of communication among cells of the nervous system.

Migraine is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent attacks of disabling headache, vomiting and malaise. Approximately 24 percent of females and 12 percent of males in the general population are affected by some form of migraine. The children of familial hemiplegic migraine sufferers have a 50-50 chance of also exhibiting the condition.

The Human Genome Center at Lawrence Livermore has mapped most of chromosome 19. A product of this research is a set of well-characterized DNA fragments -- or clones -- spanning the chromosome. These clones are available for use by the medical community for biological and medical research.

Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory recently combined their human genome research efforts within the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute.

The labs will work together and with other organizations to advance knowledge of the basic structure of the entire human genome, or genetic blueprint, through a coordinated high-throughput DNA sequencing effort. The sequencing effort will increase the information content and utility of the mapped clones.

Thanks to The Doctor's Guide to the Internet™ for the article


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