SNPWatch & 23andMe Research Findings: Migraines and the Speed of Science

Editor’s note: Pending an FDA decision, 23andMe no longer offers new customers access to health reports referred to in this post. Customers who purchased prior to November 22, 2013 will still be able to see their health reports, but those who purchased after that time will not. Those customers will have access to ancestry information as well as access to their uninterpreted raw data.

Science is slow. It can take years to enroll patients in studies, run experiments and analyze data. To make matters worse, it can often take a year or more just to get those findings published. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a faster way? A recent paper on genetic associations in migraines gave our research team an opportunity to demonstrate the power of our unique research framework.

In a study published last week in Nature Genetics, a large group of researchers led by Daniel Chasman of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston identified three new SNPs associated with migraines. The researchers compared nearly 9,000 people who reported migraines to about 32,000 individuals who did not report migraines, all of European ancestry. They found that each copy of a C at was associated with 1.11 times higher odds of migraines, each copy of a C at was associated with 0.85 times the odds of migraines and each copy of a C at was associated with 0.90 times the odds of migraines.

(23andMe customers can view their results for these SNPs in their Migraines Preliminary Research report.)

Within a matter of days our research team ran an analysis of our own migraine cohort, comprising over 4,600 migraine sufferers and over 22,000 controls, and found similar results for all three of the associations reported in the paper. Of interest was the fact that the new Nature Genetics study found no association between migraines and , a link reported by a study published last year. And like Chasman’s group, we also found no association between and migraines in the 23andMe database.

One possible explanation for these results may have been differences in determining if patients were suffering from migraines. All of the new patient groups in Chasman’s study self-reported whether they suffered from migraines, while the group used in the previous study consisted of clinician-diagnosed migraine sufferers. Here at 23andMe we also use self-report data, although our survey question asks specifically if the migraine was diagnosed by a physician. Further research is necessary to fully understand the role of genetics in migraines, however these new findings — replicated by our scientists — provide promising insight into the nature of the condition.

Thanks to our customers science doesn’t have to be slow. Those interested in migraines can continue to help move the field forward by answering the migraine survey. There are also many other surveys covering a variety of topics that help our research team make exciting new discoveries. This is just one example of the power and speed of our research; you can see more examples in our newly launched Research Findings gallery.

SNPwatch gives you the latest news about research linking various traits and conditions to individual genetic variations. These studies are exciting because they offer a glimpse into how genetics may affect our bodies and health; but in most cases, more work is needed before this research can provide information of value to individuals. For that reason it is important to remember that like all information we provide, the studies we describe in SNPwatch are for research and educational purposes only. SNPwatch is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice; you should always seek the advice of your physician or other appropriate healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding diagnosis, cure, treatment or prevention of any disease or other medical condition.